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Title: Petrarch's Letters to Classical Authors
Author: Petrarca, Francesco
Language: English
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      Page  11 note   2: “(see n. 1)”        => “(see n. [1])”.
      Page  40 note  22: “cf. n. 9.”         => “cf. n. [20].”.
      Page  41 note  22: “[cf. n. 9.]”       => “[cf. n. [20].]”.
      Page  58 note  31: “in note 10 below.” => “in note [33] below.”.
      Page  62 note  36: “See below n. 15.”  => “See below n. [38].”.
      Page  76 note  51: “cf. below n. 7”    => “cf. below n. [56]”.
      Page  90 note  62: “see n. 11.”        => “see n. [72].”.
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      Page 111 note  78: “(cf. n. 4 above)”  => “(cf. n. [76] above)”.
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    _Instructor in Latin in The College of the
    City of New York_



    Published March 1910

    Composed and Printed By
    The University of Chicago Press
    Chicago, Illinois, U. S. A.



    INTRODUCTION                                 IX

    I. LETTER TO M. T. CICERO                     1
    Notes to Letter I                             5

    II. LETTER TO M. T. CICERO                   21
    Notes to Letter II                           29

    III. LETTER TO ANNAEUS SENECA                43
    Notes to Letter III                          55

    IV. LETTER TO MARCUS VARRO                   69
    Notes to Letter IV                           76

    V. LETTER TO QUINTILIAN                      84
    Notes to Letter V                            90

    VI. LETTER TO TITUS LIVY                    100
    Notes to Letter VI                          104

    VII. LETTER TO ASINIUS POLLIO               112
    Notes to Letter VII                         118

    Notes to Letter VIII                        132

    Notes to Letter IX                          141

    X. LETTER TO HOMER                          148
    Notes to Letter X                           172

    A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY                     205


It is hardly necessary to dwell upon Petrarch’s extensive
correspondence. He was the leader of the learned men of his age; and
it is common knowledge that all his prominent contemporaries--whether
in the political world, or in the religious world, or in the
scholarly world--were numbered among his friends.

Corresponding so incessantly with all men and on all topics,
Petrarch’s letters soon grew into an unmanageable mass. One day
in 1359 (Frac., Note to _Fam._, XXIV, 13) Petrarch, with a sigh,
consigned to the flames a thousand or more papers, consisting of
short poems and of letters, merely to avoid the irksome task of
sifting and of correcting them. He then noticed a few papers lying
in a corner, which (after some hesitation) he spared because they
had already been recopied and arranged by his secretary (_Praefatio
ad Socratem_, I, p. 15). Petrarch divided these “few” letters into
two groups, dedicating the twenty-four books of prose epistles to
Socrates (_Praefatio, loc. cit._, and _Fam._, XXIV, 13), and the
three books of poetic epistles to Marco Barbato (_Praefatio, loc.
cit._, pp. 15, 16, and _Fam._, XXII, 3).

Farther on in his prefatory letter to Socrates, Petrarch points out
the vigor and the courage to be seen in his earlier letters, and
advances extenuating circumstances for the laments which begin to
crop out in the later ones. He excuses these by arguing that they
were occasioned by the misfortunes which befell his friends, and
not by those which he had suffered in his own person. At this point
Petrarch does not lose the opportunity for comparing himself with
Cicero. The passage gives so completely the information needed by the
reader that it is hereby translated in full (_Praefatio_, I, p. 25):

    Cicero, however, exhibits such weakness in his adversity
    that, although I am delighted with his style, I am oftentimes
    equally offended by his actions. Add to this his quarrelsome
    letters--the altercations and the reproachful language which
    he employs against the most illustrious men whom he has but
    recently been praising. It all reveals a remarkable fickleness
    of disposition. On reading these letters, I was soothed and
    ruffled at the same time. I could not restrain myself, and,
    indignation prompting me, I wrote to him as to a friend of my
    own years and time, regardless of the ages which separated
    us. Indeed, I wrote with a familiarity acquired through an
    intimate knowledge of the works of his genius, and I pointed
    out to him what it was that offended me in his writings. This
    letter served as a precedent. Years later, on re-reading the
    tragedy entitled _Octavia_, the memory of the letter which I
    had addressed to Cicero prompted me to write to Seneca also.
    Thereafter, and as occasion offered, I addressed letters to
    Varro, Vergil, and others. Some of these I have placed at the
    end of this work, and I hereby forewarn the reader of this
    fact, lest he should be perplexed at coming upon them unawares.
    The rest perished in that general holocaust of which I have
    told you above.

In the last letter of the collection _De rebus familiaribus_ (XXIV,
13, likewise addressed to Socrates, and dated 1361), Petrarch refers
again to the grouping together of the letters to the classical
authors. He says (III, pp. 305, 306):

    In ordering these letters, I have been guided entirely by their
    chronology, and not by their contents. [But compare Frac., 5,
    p. 201, on the matter of the chronology.] Nearly all of them
    have been arranged in the order in which they were written,
    with the exception, indeed, of these last letters addressed to
    the illustrious authors of antiquity. These I have purposely
    gathered together on account of their strange character and the
    similarity of their subject-matter. A second exception must be
    made in the case of the first letter, which, though written
    later, I have placed at the head of her companions to serve as
    a preface [a reference to the _Praefatio_, I, pp. 13-27].

The material embraced in these pages has been partly treated in
English and to a greater extent in French (by Robinson and Rolfe, and
by Develay; see Bibliography). In both cases, however, the letters
chosen have been merely translated, with only the barest attempt at
annotating. Even the notes of the Italian translation by Fracassetti
are only such as pertain to the life of Petrarch and to those of his

Thus much concerning the history of the text proper. The notes have
been made as detailed as seemed necessary and consistent with the
character of the work. Some of the quotations from the original
sources, or from translations, may appear somewhat lengthy at
first glance. In all instances, however, it has been deemed quite
essential to reproduce in the mind of the reader the conditions and
the attitude of Petrarch’s mind. Only in this way do many brief
expressions and pregnant allusions of Petrarch become perfectly clear.

It is a privilege and a pleasure to acknowledge my great indebtedness
to two authors in particular, without whose labors the present
study would have been impossible, or, at any rate, vastly more
difficult: Giuseppe Fracassetti and Pierre de Nolhac. The Latin
edition and the complete Italian translation of Petrarch’s letters
_De rebus familiaribus_ (both by Fracassetti) have been absolutely
indispensable; while P. de Nolhac’s fascinating work has provided all
the minute details concerning the actual composition and appearance
of the tomes which once formed part of Petrarch’s library.

All quotations from the letters are made from the Latin text and
from the Italian version as published by Fracassetti. The volumes of
the former are referred to by Roman numerals, those of the latter
by Arabic numerals. Passages from other works of Petrarch are
cited from the Basle edition of the _Opera omnia_, except the _De
remediis utriusque fortunae_, for which the 1649 edition has been
used. All other titles have been abbreviated in such manner as to be
readily identified by consulting the Bibliography. The texts used
in referring to the works of the classical authors themselves are
(except when otherwise indicated) those of the Teubner series.

The number of persons interested in the absorbing period of the
Italian Renaissance is increasing daily. The present study deals
with only one phase of that truly wonderful period--with the
beginnings of the Classical Renaissance. But the personality of him
who has justly been styled the “first modern man” is so complex, so
comprehensive, that the study of any portion of his works would seem
to interest not only the classical scholar, but also the student
of the modern literatures, the student of Italian literature,
the historian, and, finally, the large number of those who range
themselves in the ranks of the Petrarchists. It is hoped that this
study may make some appeal to one or to all of these classes.

The field of research on the Latin works of Petrarch is so fruitful
that, during the preparation of the present volume, numerous notes
have been taken with reference to Petrarch’s place in politics and in
religion. It is the earnest hope of the author, therefore, to pursue
his researches along these lines, and to add other volumes to this
preliminary study.


(_Fam._, XXIV, 3)

I have read thy letters through to the end most eagerly--letters for
which I had diligently searched far and wide, and which I finally
came upon where I least expected. I have heard thee speak on many
subjects, give voice to many laments, and waver frequently in thy
opinions, O Marcus Tullius. Hitherto I knew what true counsel thou
gavest to others; now, at last, I have learned to what degree thou
didst prove mentor to thyself.[1]

Wherever thou mayest be, hearken in turn to this--I shall not call
it advice--but lament, a lament springing from sincere love and
uttered, not without tears, by one of thy descendants who most dearly
cherishes thy name. O thou ever restless and distressed spirit,
or, that thou mayest recognize thine own words, O thou rash and
unfortunate old man![2] Why such countless enmities and rivalries
bound to prove of absolutely no benefit to thee? Wherefore didst
thou forsake that peaceful ease so befitting a man of thy years, and
of thy vocation, and of thy station in life?[3] What false luster
of glory involved thee, although weighed down with years, in the
wrangles and frays proper to youths and, driving thee hither and
thither through all the vicissitudes of fortune, hurried thee to an
end unworthy of a philosopher? Alas, forgetful of the admonitions
of thy brother,[4] forgetful of thy own numerous and wholesome
precepts, like a traveler in the night didst thou bear the light in
the darkness, and didst enlighten for those following thee the path
on which thou thyself didst stumble most wretchedly.[5]

I forbear to speak of Dionysius; I shall make no mention of thy
brother, nor of thy nephew, and, if it pleases thee, I shall pass
over Dolabella too--men whom thou dost praise to the skies at one
moment, and the next dost rail at in sudden wrath. Such examples
of thy inconstancy may, perhaps, be excused.[6] I omit mention of
Julius Caesar, even, whose oft-tested mercy proved a haven of refuge
for those very persons who had assailed him. I shall say naught of
the great Pompey, with whom it seemed that thou couldst accomplish
anything thou didst set thy heart upon, such was the friendship
between you. But what madness arrayed thee against Antony? Love
for the Republic, I suppose thou wouldst answer. But (as thou
thyself didst assert) the Republic had already been destroyed root
and branch.[7] If, however, it was pure loyalty, if it was love of
liberty that impelled thee (and we are justified in thinking thus
of so great a man as thou), what meant such intimacy with Augustus?
Indeed, what possible answer canst thou give to thy Brutus? “If,”
says he, “thou dost embrace the cause of Octavius, the evident
conclusion will be, not that thou hast rid thyself of a master, but
rather that thou hast sought a kindlier lord.”[8]

There still remained this lamentable, finishing stroke, O Cicero,
that thou shouldst speak ill of that very man, notwithstanding thy
previous high praise. And on what grounds? Not because he was doing
thee any wrong, but merely because he did not oppose those who were.

I grieve at thy lot, my friend; I am ashamed of thy many, great
shortcomings, and take compassion on them. And so, even as did
Brutus, I attach no importance to that knowledge with which I know
that thou wert so thoroughly imbued.[9] Forsooth, what boots it
to instruct others, of what profit to discourse eternally on the
virtues, and that too in most eloquent terms, if, at the same time,
one turns a deaf ear to his own instructions? Ah, how much better had
it been for a man of declining years, and especially for one devoted
to studies, even as thou, to have lived his last days in the quiet of
the country, meditating (as thou thyself hast said somewhere) on that
everlasting life, and not on this fleeting one.[10] How much better
had it been never to have held office, never to have longed for
triumphs,[11] never to have vaunted of crushing such men as Catiline.
But ’tis vain indeed to talk thus. Farewell forever, my Cicero.

_Written in the land of the living, on the right bank of the river
Adige, in Verona, a city of Transpadane Italy, on the sixteenth day
before the Kalends of Quintilis (June 16), in the thirteen hundred
and forty-fifth year from the birth of that God whom thou never


[1]. In 1345 Petrarch discovered in the Cathedral Library of Verona
a manuscript containing the sixteen books of Cicero’s letters _ad
Atticum_, the three books _ad Quintum_, the two _ad Brutum_, and the
apocryphal letter to Octavianus. It has been proved that he did not
discover the _ad Familiares_, an honor which belongs to Coluccio
Salutati (P. de Nolhac, I, pp. 222, 255).

We can readily imagine Petrarch’s eagerness to possess a copy of
the precious manuscript. Owing, however, to the lack of intelligent
copyists, or perhaps because copyists were not admitted into the
Chapter Library, Petrarch was obliged to transcribe the large volume
himself, in spite of his physical debility at the time. This volume
later injured Petrarch in a peculiar way, and it is interesting to
hear the story from his own lips. In _Fam._, XXI, 10, dated October
15, 1358 or 1359, he says (Vol. III, pp. 87, 88):

    But to return to Cicero, of whom I had begun to speak. You know
    that from early boyhood Cicero has always been dear to me,
    and that I have always treated him well. Now listen to what
    a shabby trick he has recently played me. I possess a large
    volume of his letters, which I copied years ago with my own
    hand because the original was unintelligible to the copyists. I
    was very low in health at the time; but my great love for the
    author, the pleasure I took in reading his work, and my great
    eagerness to possess a copy proved superior to my physical
    infirmities and to the arduous task of transcription. That this
    volume may always be at hand, I am wont to keep it at the door
    of my library leaning against the door-post, where you have
    often seen it. The other day, while entering the room with my
    mind occupied on other matters (as is customary with me), it
    happened that the fringe of my gown became caught in the book.
    In falling, the volume struck my left leg just a little above
    the ankle. It was a very slight blow. And I, addressing it
    playfully, said: “What is the matter, my Cicero, why do you
    injure me?” Of course there was no answer. The next day as I
    passed the same spot, it again struck me, and again I returned
    it to its place jestingly. To cut a long story short, after
    being struck a third and a fourth time, I at last bestirred
    myself, and supposing that Cicero could ill brook being kept
    on the floor, I raised him to a higher station. By this time
    the skin above my ankle had been cut open by the frequent
    repetition of blows on the same spot, and an irritation had set
    in that was by no means to be despised. And yet I did despise
    it, thinking of the cause of the injury rather than of the
    injury itself. Consequently I abstained neither from bathing
    nor riding about, nor enjoying long walks, supposing that the
    wound would heal of itself in time. Gradually the injured spot
    began to swell, seeming offended at having been thus neglected;
    and then the flesh about it became discolored as if poisoned.
    Finally, when the pain had put an end, not only to my jesting,
    but also to my sleep and rest, I was forced to call in the
    doctors. Further neglect would have been madness, not bravery.
    It is now many days that they have been attending to my wound,
    which is no longer a laughing matter. Nor is their treatment
    without pain, and they say there is danger of my losing the
    use of the injured limb. I believe you know well enough what
    little faith I place in their statements one way or the other.
    And yet, I am weighed down with warm poultices, I am forbidden
    my usual food, and am constrained to an inactivity to which I
    am quite unaccustomed. I have grown to hate everything, and am
    particularly vexed at this, that I am compelled to eat dinners
    that are fit only for gourmands. Still, I am now on my way to
    recovery, so that you too will have learned of my convalescence
    before you had any knowledge of my accident.

This letter portrays Petrarch’s love for Cicero so clearly, and gives
us so vivid a picture of the human side of our author, that we cannot
resist the temptation to quote from another letter written about a
year later, which completes the story of the offending volume. He
writes to Boccaccio (_Var._, 25, Milan, August 18, 1360):

    I greatly enjoyed the next portion of your letter, where you
    say that I was undeservedly injured by Cicero because (as you
    very neatly put it) of my too great familiarity with him. You
    are right: those with whom we live on the most intimate terms
    are the ones who most often molest us. It is a most rare and
    unusual thing indeed for a Hindoo to offend a Spaniard. And so
    it goes. Whence it happens that we are not surprised when we
    read of the wars of the Athenians against the Spartans, and
    when we witness our own wars against our neighbors. Much less
    do we marvel at civil wars and internal dissensions. Indeed,
    experience has made these so much a matter of course that it is
    peace and harmony rather that have become a source of wonder.
    If, on the other hand, we read of a Scythian king waging
    war with the monarchs of Egypt, or of Alexander the Macedon
    fighting his way into the heart of India, we are overcome by
    amazement, which ceases the moment we recollect the examples
    offered by our own history and recall the glorious and valorous
    expeditions of the Romans into the most distant lands. Your
    arguments proved to be of consolation to me, in so far as I was
    hurt by Cicero, with whom I most ardently desire to live on
    intimate terms. But I hope that I shall never be injured either
    by Hippocrates or by Albumazar.

    But to be serious, you must know that that wound which was
    caused by Cicero and of which I had begun to jest, soon turned
    my sport to grief. Almost a year slipped by, and the condition
    of the wound was still going from bad to worse, while I was
    growing gray in the midst of pain and discomforts, doctors and
    poultices. Finally, when my restlessness had become intolerable
    and I had become tired of life, I resolved to dismiss the
    doctors and to await the outcome, no matter what it was,
    preferring to entrust myself to God and to nature rather than
    to those white-washers who were experimenting the tricks of
    their trade to my detriment. And I lived up to my resolution.
    I showed them the door, and placed full reliance in the aid of
    the Divine Preserver. The youth who waits upon me, thanks to
    my wound and at my expense, turned doctor. And I, remembering
    which of the many remedies had been of real benefit to me, made
    use of those only. To help nature I was careful of my diet;
    and so very, very gradually I am regaining the health which I
    lost in such short order. Now you have the story complete. Let
    me add one word more, that this life is an arena for toils and
    griefs in which I have often combated against strange mishaps,
    strange not in themselves, but in that they should have fallen
    to my lot. No one, I assure you, seeks peace more than I;
    no one shuns such encounters more readily than I; and never
    have I, hitherto, suffered such a strange calamity, whether
    you consider its peculiar cause, or the pain which resulted
    therefrom, or its long continuance. My Cicero wished to leave
    upon my memory an imperishable and lasting impression. I always
    should have remembered him, I vow; but lest I might possibly
    forget him, Cicero has now taken due precautions--both internal
    and external. And here again, what do you wish me to say? To
    repeat, I now perceive that life is in itself a serious work.

So much for the tome itself; now as to the inspiration received from
its contents. The present letter to Cicero bears the date Verona,
June 16, 1345. Hence it is clear that before leaving the city in
which he had made the discovery, Petrarch had been prompted to
address this letter to his favorite author. In fact we have his own
testimony to this effect (see Introduction). Both this letter to
Cicero and the following (_Fam._, XXIV, 4) are mentioned again in
_Fam._, XXIV, 2, dated May 13, 1351. Petrarch here records for Pulice
di Vicenza the various details of a heated discussion they had had
with an old gentleman who was an idolatrous worshiper of Cicero. The
story runs that Petrarch had chanced to refer to the inconstancy
of Cicero, bringing utter dismay to his astonished opponents. He
continues (Vol. III, pp. 258 ff.):

    The situation demanded that I draw forth from my traveling-case
    the volume containing my correspondence. But this only heaped
    coals upon the fire. For, among the numerous letters to my
    contemporaries, there are a few which, for the sake of variety,
    I have addressed to the more distinguished characters of
    antiquity--a pleasant diversion, so to speak, from my wonted
    labors. The reader, if not forewarned, would be greatly
    astonished at finding such illustrious and ancient names
    mingled with those of today. Two of these letters are to Cicero
    himself; one of them censures his life, the second praises his
    genius. After you had read them to the attentive gathering,
    the friendly discussion was renewed with spirit. My writings
    found favor with some, who acknowledged that Cicero had been
    criticized justly. That venerable gentleman alone fought on and
    on with ever-increasing obstinacy. Being held captive by the
    splendor of the name and his love for the author, he preferred
    to laud even the shortcomings of Cicero, and to accept the
    vices of his friend together with his virtues. He did not wish
    to make any discrimination, lest he might seem to cast even the
    slightest aspersions on so praiseworthy an author. He could
    make no other answer to me and the rest, except to oppose to
    all our arguments the mere splendor of Cicero’s name. Authority
    had driven out reason. Stretching out his hand, he exclaimed
    time and again: “Have mercy on my Cicero, I beg of you; be more
    merciful.” And when asked whether Cicero could be said to have
    erred at all, he closed his eyes as if struck by the word, and
    turning away his face groaned: “Woe is me! And is it my Cicero
    who is thus reproved?” as if he were speaking, not of a mortal
    but of some deity. Hence we asked of him whether he judged
    Tullius a man or a god. Instantly came the reply: “A god.”
    ... After long discussion, and at a late hour, we arose and
    departed, leaving the issue still undecided. But the last thing
    before separating for the evening, you exacted from me the
    promise to send to you a copy of those two letters the moment I
    should arrive at a more fixed abode--for there was no time that
    day.... I hereby send them to you.

[2]. Unfortunately for the commentator, Petrarch considered as
authentic the letter _ad Octavianum_, which was included in the
manuscript he discovered at Verona (see n. [1]). The letter is now
generally considered apocryphal. In sec. 6 occurs the phrase
referred to by Petrarch: “O meam calamitosam ac praecipitem

[3]. _Rer. mem._, i, 1, p. 393, “De ocio,” has the following
paragraph on Cicero:

    But I am done with leaders in war. I shall now speak of M.
    Tullius Cicero. After countless hardships suffered in the
    course of his career, after such numerous dangers incurred
    during that most stormy consulship and in his immortal
    fight against unprincipled men, when the liberty of his
    fellow-citizens had at last been destroyed, Cicero escaped
    as if from a sinking ship, and, stripped of all his honors,
    retired into a life of seclusion. And now, in roving about
    from one country home to another, as he himself says (_De
    off._, iii, 1, 1), he found himself alone quite frequently.
    But what activity in public life, I ask, was comparable to his
    leisure? What crowded assemblies to his isolation? Although
    Cicero may be pardoned for weeping bitterly over the fate of
    his fatherland, still from out of that solitude there spread
    abroad to all nations monumental products of his divine genius.
    Indeed, as Cicero himself says (_De off._, iii, 1, 4), more
    works were struck off in that brief period than in the many
    years while the Republic was still standing. But his powers did
    not avail him in warding off his destiny. He was safe in the
    midst of dangers; but when at last in the haven he suffered

(Consult the notes of H. A. Holden, in his edition of the _De

[4]. This story is given more fully in _Rer. mem._, iii, 3, p. 440,
“De sapienter dictis vel factis, Q. Cicero”:

    The following proves clearly how much easier it is for a man to
    give good advice to others than to himself. Quintus Cicero once
    offered advice to Marcus Cicero, his brother, and if Marcus had
    accepted it, he would perhaps have died in his own bed, and
    his body might have been laid to rest unmutilated. The advice
    was that Marcus should consider carefully the wretched end of
    his illustrious contemporaries, and should examine closely the
    dangers by which he himself was beset; after which he should
    beware of becoming involved in strifes and conflicts which
    could bring no relief to the State, but which would, in the
    end, bring destruction upon him. Most prudent counsel indeed!
    For what is more fatuous than to become entangled in unending
    quarrels, especially when one already despairs of attaining
    the desired goal? Tullius himself somewhere admits that this
    brotherly advice was both sensible and wise. But we all know
    how wisely he followed it! Perchance it was the force of
    destiny which urged him on--a compelling force which I know not
    whether it was possible to resist. At any rate, such resistance
    must have proved very difficult. And this fact is impressed
    upon my mind by the subject of the following sketch.

[5]. Dante, _Purg._, XXII, 64-70 (tr. by Longfellow):

    And he to him: “Thou first directedst me
    Towards Parnassus, in its grots to drink,
    And first concerning God didst me enlighten.
    Thou didst as he who walketh in the night,
    Who bears his light behind, which helps him not,
    But wary makes the persons after him,
    When thou didst say,”....

[6]. In _Fam._, XXIV, 2 (a letter from which we have already quoted
in n. 1) there are some passages fairly parallel to this one. The
first is (Vol. III, p. 258):

    You may remember that Cicero’s name chanced to be mentioned
    among us, as so often happens among learned men. This put
    a stop to the desultory conversation in which we had been
    engaged up to that time. We all became engrossed with this one
    topic, and nothing else but Cicero was talked of thereafter.
    We gathered round and each in turn sang the praises of Cicero
    as seemed best to him. But nothing in this world is perfect
    (as everyone knows), and there is no one in whom even a gentle
    critic cannot find just cause for censure. And so it happened
    that though nearly everything pleases me in Cicero--a man whom
    I cherish beyond all my other friends--and though I expressed
    admiration for his golden eloquence and divine intellect,
    I could not praise the fickleness of his character and his
    inconstancy, which I had detected in many instances.

And again, at the end of the same letter (Vol. III, p. 261), Petrarch

    As regards Cicero, I have known him as the best of consuls,
    vigilantly providing for the welfare of the State, and as a
    citizen who always evinced the highest love of country. But
    what more? I cannot bestow praise upon the instability of his
    friendships, nor upon the serious disagreements arising from
    slight causes and bringing destruction upon him and benefit
    to none, nor upon a judgment which, when brought to bear upon
    questions of private and public affairs, did not well accord
    with his remarkable acumen in other directions. Above all, I
    cannot praise, in a philosopher weighed down with years, an
    inclination for wrangling which is proper to youths and utterly
    of no avail. Of all this, however, remember that neither you
    nor anyone else can be in a fit position to judge, until you
    will have read, and carefully, all the letters of Cicero; for
    it is these which gave rise to the whole discussion.

[7]. Petrarch has here paraphrased the words of Cicero, who employs
such expressions as “maximo in discrimine res publica versatur” (_ad
Br._, i, 12, 1); “ferre praesidium labenti et inclinatae paene rei
publicae” (_op. cit._, i, 18, 2); “res existimabatur in extremum
adducta discrimen” (_ibid._, ii, 1, 1, and ii, 2, 2); “desperatam
et afflictam rem publicam” (pseudo-Cic., _ad Octavianum_, 4); and
“mortua re publica” (_ibid._, 7).

[8]. Cic., _ad Brutum_, i, 16 (written by Brutus at Athens, May, 43
B. C.):

    I have read an extract (sent to me by Atticus) of the letter
    which you wrote to Octavius.... I am most deeply afflicted by
    that portion of your letter to Octavius which concerns us. You
    give him thanks for the welfare of the State, and--what shall
    I say? The conditions imposed by my present lot bring shame
    upon me, but still the words must be written--you suppliantly
    and submissively commend our safety to his mercy.... For my
    part I do not believe that all the gods have abandoned their
    protection of the Roman people to such an extent that Octavius
    is to be implored for the safety of any citizen whatsoever,
    much less, then, for that of the liberators of the entire
    world.... And can you, Cicero, who confess that Octavius has
    this power, can you still remain his friend?... For if you are
    pleased with Octavius, of whom our safety is to be implored,
    you will seem, not to have rid yourself of a master, but rather
    to have sought a kindlier lord.

[9]. Cic., _ad Brutum_, i, 17, 5 (Brutus to Atticus, 43 B. C.):
“I, in truth, attach no importance to that knowledge with which I
know that Cicero was so thoroughly imbued. For what profited him to
discourse, and at such great length, on his country’s freedom, on
dignity, on death, on exile, and on poverty?”

[10]. The reference is very indefinite: “in tranquillo rure senuisse,
de perpetua illa, ut ipse quodam loco ais, non de hac iam exigua vita
cogitantem” (Vol. III, p. 263). The passages which Petrarch had in
mind may have been _De sen._, 49: “If, however, we have something
that may serve as food (so to speak) for study and learning, there
is nothing more pleasant than a leisurely old age;” and 51: “I come
now to the pleasures of a country life, with which I am infinitely
delighted. None of these finds an obstruction in old age, and they
are pleasures which appear to me to be most nearly suited to the
life of a philosopher.” These two passages affirm that the sage
should live a leisurely and studious old age in the country. As to
meditating on the eternal life, Petrarch may have been thinking of
_Acad. pr._, ii, 127:

    By no means, however, do I hold that the studies of the natural
    philosophers should be excluded. Indeed, a consideration
    and contemplation of nature constitutes the natural food
    (so to speak) for our minds and talents. We are elevated
    thereby, and we seem to rise to a higher state of being. We
    disdain human affairs; and, in meditating on the higher and
    heavenly things, we scorn earthly matters as being small and
    insignificant--“cogitantesque supera atque caelestia haec
    nostra ut exigua et minima contemnimus.”

There is a marked similarity between the two passages, both in the
thought and the wording. As to the latter we must remember that
Petrarch was quoting from memory and not from an open book, an
inference which (we believe) may be justly drawn from his “ut ipse
quodam loco ais.” It is needless to add that the similarity of the
two passages lies only in the letter, and that the spirit of Cicero’s
words was thoroughly pagan. With Petrarch, in this instance, the wish
was father to the thought. Still he could not deceive himself on this
point, as is evidenced by the dating of this letter. Elsewhere, too,
he expresses his sincere regret, and regards Cicero as a potential
Christian, if we may use the phrase. In a letter written to Neri
Morando and dated October 15, 1358 or 1359, Petrarch is full and
explicit. He says (_Fam._, XXI, 10, Vol. III, pp. 85-87):

    I am living in the country not far from the banks of the Adda.
    I know that I am not more solicitous of your welfare than
    you of mine. I suppose, therefore, you will be astonished at
    hearing how I am spending my time. You are well aware that from
    early boyhood of all the writers of all ages and of all races
    the one author whom I most admire and love is Cicero. You agree
    with me in this respect as well as in so many others. I am not
    afraid of being considered a poor Christian by declaring myself
    so much of a Ciceronian. To my knowledge, Cicero never wrote
    one word that would conflict with the principles proclaimed by
    Christ. If, perchance, his works contained anything contrary to
    Christ’s doctrine, that one fact would be sufficient to destroy
    my belief in Cicero, and in Aristotle, too, and in Plato. For
    how could I place faith in man, I who should believe not
    even an angel, relying on the words of the Apostle who says,
    in the Epistle to the Galatians (1:8): “But though we, or an
    angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that
    which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” But to
    return to Cicero. He frequently makes mention of the gods,
    following, of course, the custom of his times. He devotes an
    entire volume, it is true, to a discussion of the nature of
    the gods. If you read beneath the surface, however, you will
    be convinced that he does not so much pay honor to this throng
    of gods with their empty names, but rather exposes them to
    ridicule. Where he seriously expresses his own opinion Cicero
    asserts that there is but one God, and that He is the Prince
    and Ruler of the universe. I have often pointed out, both in
    speech and in writing, that in this respect Cicero was fully
    aware of the danger attending his statement of the truth. And
    yet, somewhere, he has clearly stated that it is not befitting
    a philosopher to say that there are many gods. Who, therefore,
    will declare Cicero hostile to the true faith, or who, because
    of his crass ignorance of the facts, will cast upon Cicero the
    opprobrium of stranger and enemy? Christ is my God; Cicero, on
    the other hand, is the prince of the language I use. I grant
    you that these ideas are widely separated, but I deny that they
    are at conflict one with the other. Christ is the Word, and the
    Virtue, and the Wisdom of God the Father. Cicero has written
    much on the speech of men, on the virtues of men, and on the
    wisdom of men--statements that are true and therefore surely
    acceptable to the God of truth. For since God is the living
    Truth, and since, as St. Augustine says, all truth proceeds
    from Him who is the Truth, then surely whatever truth is
    spoken proceeds from God. I should desire to emphasize the fact
    that Cicero could not have known Christ, having been called
    from this world shortly before Christ God became man. Oh,
    lamentable lot! For, considering his noble and almost divine
    intellect, if Cicero had seen Christ or had merely heard of
    His name, not only (in my opinion) would he have embraced the
    faith, but, with his incomparable eloquence, would most ably
    have spread the teachings of Christ.

[11]. Cic., _ad Att._, vii, 2, 6 (50 B. C.):

    Indeed, I never cherished the slightest desire for a triumph
    till I saw that Bibulus’ most shameless letters succeeded in
    winning for him the decree of a thanksgiving. If he had really
    performed the deeds he wrote of in his letters, I should
    rejoice and be favorably disposed to the honor decreed him. But
    that honors should be showered upon him, who never advanced one
    step beyond the gate so long as the enemy remained on this side
    of the Euphrates, and that I, in whose forces lay all the hope
    of his army, should be denied the same honors, is an insult to
    both of us, to both, I say, including you too in my disgrace.
    Therefore I shall leave no stone unturned, and, I hope, success
    will crown my efforts.


(_Fam._, XXIV, 4)

I fear that my last letter has offended thee; for thou thyself art
wont to designate as just the adage of thy friend in his Andria,[12]
“Homage begets friends; truth, enemies.” If my fear prove true, then
accept what may in some degree soothe thy injured feelings. Let not
the truth be a source of ill humor in every and all instances, I beg
of thee. Men, I know, are wont to be angered at justifiable censure,
and to rejoice in merited praise. Thou, indeed, O Cicero (speaking
with thy leave), didst live as a man, didst speak as an orator, didst
write as a philosopher. It was thy life that I found fault with, not
thy intellectual powers, nor yet thy command of language. Indeed, I
admire the former, and am amazed at the latter. And, moreover, in thy
life I feel the lack of nothing except the element of constancy, and
a desire for peace that was to have been expected of a philosopher.
I look in vain for a deep-rooted antipathy to civil dissensions,
to strifes utterly of no avail, considering that liberty had been
crushed and that the Republic had already been mourned as dead.

Mark how different is my attitude toward thee from thine toward
Epicurus on so many occasions, but especially in the _De finibus_.
Whenever thou wert so inclined, thou didst praise his life and
ridicule his intellect.[13] In thee I ridicule nothing. I take
compassion, however, on the life thou didst lead; while, as I have
already stated, I rejoice in thy mental abilities and in thy powers
of expression. O thou great father of Roman eloquence![14] Not only
I, but all who take delight in the elegance of the Latin tongue
render thee great thanks. Thou art the fountain-head from which we
draw the vivifying waters for our meadows. We frankly confess that
we have been guided by thee, assisted by thy judgments, enlightened
by thy radiance; and, finally, that it was under thy auspices, so to
speak, that I have gained this ability as a writer (such as it is),
and that I have attained my purpose.

For the realms of poetry, however, there was at hand a second guide.
The nature of the case demanded that there should be two leaders--one
whom I might follow in the unencumbered ways of prose, and the other
in the more restricted paths of poetry. It was necessary that there
should be two men whom I should admire, respectively, for their
eloquence and their song. This had needs be so. For--and I beg
the kind indulgence of you both for speaking thus boldly--neither
of you could serve both purposes; he could not rival thee in thy
chosen field, whereas thou couldst not adapt thyself to his measured
flow. I would not, indeed, have ventured to be the first to pass
such criticism, even though I clearly perceived it to be true. It
has already been passed before me--or, peradventure, it may have
been quoted from another writer--by that great Annaeus Seneca of
Cordova,[15] who, as he himself complains, was prevented from
becoming acquainted with thee, not by any lapse of years, but by the
fury of civil warfare.[16] He might have seen thee, but did not;
withal, he was a constant admirer and worshiper both of thy works and
of those of that other. Seneca, therefore, marks out the boundaries
of your respective spheres, and enjoins upon each to yield to his
coworker in the other field.

But I am keeping thee in suspense too long. Dost thou ask who that
other guide is? Thou wilt know the man at once, if thou art merely
reminded of his name. It is Publius Vergilius Maro, a citizen of
Mantua, of whom thou didst prophesy such great things. For we have
read that when thou, then advanced in years, hadst admired some
youthful effort of his, thou didst inquire its author’s name, and
that, having seen the young man, thou didst express thy great
delight. And then, drawing on thy unexhausted fount of eloquence,
thou didst pronounce upon him a judgment which, though mingled with
self-praise, was nevertheless both honorable and splendid for him:
“Rome’s other hope and stay.”[17] This sentence, which he thus heard
fall from thy lips, pleased the youth to such a degree, and was so
jealously treasured in his mind, that twenty years later, when thou
hadst long since ended this earthly career, he inserted it word for
word into his divine poem. And if it had been thy lot to see this
work, thou wouldst have rejoiced that from the first blossom thou
hadst made such accurate prediction of future success. Thou wouldst,
moreover, have congratulated the Latin Muses, either for leaving
but a doubtful superiority to the arrogant Greek Muses, or else for
winning over them a decisive victory. There are defenders for both
these opinions, I grant thee. And yet, if I have come to know thee
from thy works--and I feel that I know thee as intimately as if I
had always lived with thee--I should say that thou wouldst have been
a stern defender of the latter view, and that, just as thou hadst
already granted to Latium the palm in oratory,[18] thou wouldst
have done likewise in the case of poetry. I do not doubt, moreover,
that thou wouldst have pronounced the _Aeneid_ superior to the
_Iliad_--an assertion which Propertius did not fear to make from the
very beginning of Vergil’s labors. For when he had meditated upon the
opening lines of the inspired poem, he freely gave utterance to the
feelings and hopes aroused by it in these verses:

    Yield then, ye bards of Greece, ye Romans yield,
    A mightier yet than Homer takes the field.[19]

Thus much concerning my second guide for Latin eloquence, thus much
concerning Rome’s other hope and stay. I come back to thee now. Thou
hast already heard from me my opinions on thy life and on thy genius.
Art thou desirous now of learning what lot befell thy works, of
knowing in what esteem they are held either by the world in general,
or else by the more learned classes? There are extant, indeed,
splendid volumes--volumes which I can scarcely enumerate, much less
peruse with care. The fame of thy deeds and thy works is very great,
and has spread far and wide. Thy name, too, has a familiar ring to
all. Very few and rare, however, are those who study thee, and for
various reasons: either because of the natural perversity of the
times toward such studies, or because the minds of men have become
dull and sluggish, or, as I think most likely, because greed has bent
their minds in an entirely different direction. Wherefore, some of
thy works have (unless I am mistaken) perished in this generation,
and I know not whether they will ever be recovered. Oh, how great is
my grief thereat; how great is the ignominy of this age; how great
the loss to posterity! It was not, I suppose, sufficiently degrading
to neglect our own powers, and to bequeath to future generations
no fruit of our intellects; but, worse than all else, we had to
destroy the fruit also of thy labor with our cruel, our unpardonable
disregard. This lamentable loss has overtaken not merely thy works,
but also those of many other illustrious authors. But at present I
would speak of thy writings only; and the names of those whose loss
is the more regrettable are the following: _De republica_, _De
re familiari_, _De re militari_, _De laude philosophiae_,[20] _De
consolatione_, and the _De gloria_.[21] Concerning the last, however,
I entertain a more or less doubtful hope of its recovery, and
consequently my despair is not unqualified. Unfortunately, however,
even of those books that have come down to us, there are lacking
large portions. It is as if we had overcome, after a great struggle,
the oblivion threatened by the sloth and inactivity of ages; but,
as the price of victory, we had to mourn over our leaders, not only
those to be numbered among the dead, but also the maimed and the
lost. We miss this loss in many of thy works, but more especially in
the _De oratore_,[22] the _Academica_, and the _De legibus_--all of
which have reached us in such a fragmentary and mutilated condition
that it would have been better, perhaps, had they perished altogether.

There remains still another topic. Art thou desirous of learning the
present condition of Rome and of the Roman state? of knowing the
actual appearance of thy fatherland, the state of harmony among its
citizens, to whom the shaping of its policies has fallen, and by
whose wisdom and by whose hands the reins of government are held?
Art thou wondering whether or not the Danube, and the Ganges, and
the Ebro, and the Nile, and the Don are still the boundaries of our
empire? and whether that man has arisen among us

    The limits of whose victories
    Are ocean, of his fame the skies,

and who

    O’er Ind and Garamant extreme
    Shall stretch his reign,

as thy Mantuan friend once sang?[23] I feel sure that thou art most
eager to hear such and similar tidings, owing to thy loyalty and the
love thou didst bear the fatherland, a love remaining constant even
unto death. But it is better to pass over such subjects in silence.
Believe me, Cicero, if thou wert to learn of the fallen state of our
country, thou wouldst weep bitter tears, be it a region of Heaven
that thou inhabitest, or of Hades. Forever farewell.

    _From the land of the living, on the left bank of the Rhone,
    in Transpadane Gaul, in the same year, on the fourteenth day
    before the Kalends of January (at Avignon, December 19, 1345)._


[12]. Terence, _Andria_, i, 1, 41. Petrarch’s words, “ut ipse
soles dicere, quod ait familiaris tuus in Andria” (Vol. III, p.
264), are proof that he was not quoting Terence directly, but the
_De amicitia_. In chap. 89 of the latter we read, “Quod in Andria
familiaris meus dicit,” and then follows the verse in question.
The speaker is of course Laelius, of whom Terence was in fact a
friend. Petrarch, therefore, has either momentarily lost sight
of the speaker, or, realizing full well that Laelius is Cicero’s
mouth-piece, has consciously identified the two. This would, of
course, make Terence a friend of Cicero; the “familiaris meus” of the
_De amicitia_ and the “familiaris tuus” of Petrarch both, therefore,
become equivalent to “familiaris Ciceronis.”

[13]. There is a passage in the _De finibus_ in which Cicero
especially contrasts the teachings of Epicurus with his life. It is
ii, 80 and 81:

    That philosophy which you defend, and those tenets which you
    have learned, and approve of, destroy friendship to the very
    roots, even though Epicurus does extol friendship to the
    skies--as we must confess. “But Epicurus himself cultivated
    friendships,” you will say. And who, pray, is denying that
    he was a good and kindly man, full of sympathy for his
    fellow-beings? We are here discussing his intellect, not his
    life. We shall leave such fickleness and perversity to the
    Greeks, who attack with animosity all who may differ from them
    in their beliefs concerning truth. I must say, however, that,
    although he was affable in maintaining his friendships (if this
    be true, for I affirm nothing), yet he did not possess a keen
    mind. To which you will rejoin, “But he convinced many people.”
    ... To me, indeed, the fact that Epicurus himself was a good
    man, and that there have been and are today many Epicureans,
    loyal in their friendships, consistent in their actions
    throughout life, serious of disposition and shaping their
    plans without regard to pleasure but rather through a sense of
    duty--to me these facts prove that the power of integrity is
    superior, and that of pleasure inferior. In truth, some persons
    live in such a way that their life confutes their words. And
    therefore, just as others are considered to speak better than
    they act, so these Epicureans (it seems) must be said to act
    better than they speak.

Cicero mentions the inconsistency of Epicurus in ii, 96: “Listen now
... to the dying words of Epicurus, and observe how widely his deeds
and his words disagree;” and again in ii, 99: “But you will find
nothing in this splendid letter of Epicurus in accord and consistent
with his maxims. He refutes himself, while his theories are set at
naught by his upright life.”

As Petrarch says, Books I and II of the _De finibus_ are crowded with
favorable and adverse comments on Epicurus and his philosophy. Of the
latter it will suffice to refer to i, 22, in which Cicero accuses
Epicurus of being utterly wanting in logic; and to i, 26, where he
denies that Epicurus can be admitted to the number of the learned.

[14]. Perhaps a reminiscence of Pliny, _N. H._, vii, 30 _extr._:
“salve ... facundiae Latiarumque litterarum parens.”

[15]. Seneca, _Contr._, iii, _praef._ 8.

[16]. Seneca, _Contr._, i, _praef._ 11.

[17]. _Aen._, xii, 168. Donatus, _Vita Verg._, XI, 41 (p. 60 R,
through _pronuntiarentur_ only):

    The publication of the Bucolics was attended by such great
    success that they were frequently recited, even by actors
    on the stage. Cicero once heard some of the verses, and his
    keen judgment at once perceived that they were written in no
    common vein. So he ordered the eclogue to be recited from the
    beginning; and after listening attentively to the very end, he
    exclaimed, “Rome’s other hope and stay;” as if he himself had
    been the first hope of the Latin tongue, and Maro were to be
    the second. These words Maro afterward inserted in the _Aeneid_.

This version does not mention Cicero’s inquiry as to the author of
the verses he admired (“quaesivisses auctorem”), nor their meeting
(“eumque ... vidisses”) nor the fact that his exclamation was
flattering both to himself and to Vergil (“cum propria quidem laude
permixtum”). Servius’ version, however, does include these three
elements, and hence he is to be considered Petrarch’s source. He
writes (_ad Ecl._, vi, 11):

    It is said that Vergil’s reading of this eclogue (vi) was
    received with great favor; so much so, indeed, that when later
    Cytheris the courtesan (whom Vergil calls Lycoris in the last
    eclogue) sang it in the theater, Cicero in amazement inquired
    who the author of it was (“cuius esset requireret”). And when
    at last Cicero had seen him (“eum ... vidisset”), he is said to
    have exclaimed, in praise of both himself and that other (“et
    ad suam et ad illius laudem”), “Rome’s other hope and stay”--a
    phrase which Vergil afterward applied to Ascanius, as the
    commentators relate.

This version was one which would especially appeal to Petrarch; for,
as P. de Nolhac justly observes (I, p. 125), it represents Petrarch’s
two literary idols as having been personally acquainted with each

And, finally, in favor of the Servian origin is the fact that in
Donatus the entire story appears in the interpolated version of the
_Vita_, and it is doubtful whether Petrarch was acquainted with this
longer version (Sabbadini, _Rend. del R. Ist. Lomb._, [1906], p.
198). The interpolated text of the _Vita_ has, in fact, been traced
only as far back as the beginning of the fifteenth century; the date
temporarily assigned to it is 1400-20 (Sabbadini, “La ‘Vergilii Vita’
di Donato,” _Studi Italiani di Filologia Classica_, Vol. V, 1897, pp.

[18]. Cicero, however, is much more guarded in his statement than we
would infer from the words of Petrarch; _Tusc._, i, 3, 5: “Then came
the Lepidi, Carbo, and the Gracchi, and so many great orators after
them down to our own times, that we were very little, if at all,
inferior to the Greeks.”

[19]. Translation, by Ch. R. Moore (p. 73), of Propertius, ii, 34_b_,
65, 66 (_rec._ Aem. Baehrens, Teubner, 1880) or ii, 34, 65, 66 (H. E.
Butler, 1905).

There is abundant proof that Petrarch was acquainted with Propertius
(P. de Nolhac, I, pp. 170-72). Still, from the few indirect
references to this author, one is inclined to believe that Petrarch
here (as elsewhere) is drawing upon the _Life_ by Donatus for
biographical information on Vergil. And in fact the Propertian
couplet seems to derive from Donatus, _Vita Verg._, XII, 45 (p. 61R),
the “operis fundamenta” and “asseverare non timuit” of Petrarch
(Vol. III, p. 266), corresponding, respectively, to the “Aeneidos
vixdum coeptae” and “non dubitaverit sic praedicare” of Donatus. In
commenting upon this famous distich, H. Nettleship says (“Vergil,”
in _Classical Writers_ [New York, 1880], p. 86): “Propertius and
Ovid saw at once what was in Vergil. Of the _Aeneid_ Propertius
said ‘something greater than the _Iliad_ is coming to the birth.’”
(Cf. _Ancient Lives of Vergil_ [Oxford, 1879], p. 67.) Comparetti,
however, has chosen a different course in his _Vergil in the Middle
Ages_ (tr. by Benecke, 1895). On p. 3, after stating that the Romans
confessed Vergil’s inferiority to Homer, he continues in a footnote:

    The exaggerations of a few enthusiasts must not be reckoned at
    more than their real value. How great a part of the “Nescio
    quid maius nascitur Iliade” of Propertius was due to his
    friendship with Vergil becomes clear when we compare with it
    the praises he lavishes on the _Thebaid_ of another friend,

[20]. In a large tome containing Cicero’s writings, and supposed
to have belonged to Petrarch, there occurred the rubric “de laude
ac defensione philosophiae, introducens Lucullum loquentem ad
Hortensium, liber primus incipit.” Petrarch, misled by this heading,
had been of the opinion that the work following was the _Hortensius_.
As a matter of fact, it was book ii of the _Academica Priora_, which
has the separate subtitle “Lucullus” (P. de Nolhac, I, pp. 228,
244 ff.). He labored under this delusion for some time, until in
reading St. Augustine he met citations from the real _Hortensius_,
which of course he could not verify in his supposed _Hortensius_.
Finally he received from Marco Barbato da Sulmona, whom he had
met in 1341 at Naples, a manuscript containing a work inscribed
_Academica_. Investigation quickly showed him that this work and his
supposed _Hortensius_ were one and the same. But he was unwilling to
relinquish the idol he had worshiped so long. Doubts still remained.
On his visit to Naples in 1343, however, he identified once and for
all the work in his own manuscript; and on his return he entered the
following note abreast of the heading: “This title, though common, is
nevertheless a false one. This is not the _De laude philosophiae_,
but the last two of the four books of the _Academica_.” The
present letter to Cicero was written in 1345, two years after the
correction of his error; hence Petrarch rightly places the _De laude
philosophiae_ (_sive Hortensius_) in the catalogue of lost books.

The closing statement of Petrarch’s postilla needs a few words of
explanation. The fragment which he possessed constituted book ii
of the _Ac. priora_. Petrarch supposed that he had not one, but
two books. The deception was due to an arbitrary division in his
manuscript at the words “Hortensius autem vehementer” (_Ac. pr._, ii,
63). Still another error existed. Petrarch thought that his fragment
was part of the second edition of the _Academica_ in four books--the
_Posteriora_ dedicated to Varro, of whose existence he had learned
from the letters to Atticus (cf. xiii, 13) which he had discovered
earlier in the same year.

[21]. Every biography relates how Petrarch gave in loan to his
teacher, Convennole (or Convenevole) da Prato, a manuscript
containing the _De gloria_ of Cicero; and how the schoolmaster, in an
hour of extreme need, pawned the volume, which could never again be
found in spite of Petrarch’s constant search for it. The story as we
have it is told by Petrarch himself, in a letter written in 1374,
the very last year of his life (_Sen._, xvi, 1).

Modern scholarship has cast doubts upon the tale. P. de Nolhac
discusses the question thoroughly in Vol. I, pp. 260-68. His
explanation of the evolution of the idea which possessed Petrarch is
the following.

In his youth Petrarch must have read in the lost volume some
beautiful passages on glory--passages which remained more or less
firmly fixed in his mind. In later years, when his scholarship
broadened, he learned of a separate work by Cicero on the subject of
glory; and, questioning his memory, the remembrance of those passages
became so clear and distinct that he began to imagine he had really
possessed the _De gloria_ in the volume unfortunately loaned to his
schoolmaster. The hope arose that he might some day find the volume
again. It was while in this stage that he wrote the present letter
(1345), saying that he entertained a more or less doubtful hope of
its recovery and that his despair was not unqualified. His regret
increased with the years. By dreaming of his hoped-for recovery of
the manuscript, by discussing it with his friends year after year,
Petrarch finally, as so often results from the frequent repetition
of a story, persuaded himself that he had at one time been the actual
possessor of the _De gloria_. Hence it was that, writing thirty years
later, in 1374, when his mind was losing its firm grip on facts, and
when he was tottering on the brink of the grave, the unfulfilled hope
for a thing long desired turned into a regret for a thing actually
lost (_op. cit._, p. 266).

[22]. Petrarch was mistaken in placing the _De oratore_ among the
fragmentary works. In the large tome already referred to, there
followed hard upon the heels of the _De oratore_ what is now known
as the _Orator_. The latter did not, however, bear a separate title,
and consequently Petrarch considered it as a fourth book to the _De
oratore_. Moreover, this pseudo-fourth book had a large lacuna, for
it began only with the words “(aliquan) toque robustius” (sec. 91);
and the lacuna being clearly indicated, Petrarch unavoidably thought
the _De oratore_ incomplete (P. de Nolhac, I, pp. 228-30, 242). To be
correct he should have written _Orator_ instead of _De oratore_. But
even this would scarcely have mended matters; for, not being aware of
the separate existence of these two works, Petrarch was wont to cite
passages from one and the other, employing the indiscriminate title
_Orator_ (_ibid._, pp. 253, 254).

After this enumeration of the lost and fragmentary works, it will
be interesting to know with how many writings of Cicero Petrarch
was really acquainted at this time. Fortunately for our purpose,
he writes to Lapo da Castiglionchio in 1352, describing to him the
beauty and quiet of his retreat at Vaucluse, and the reading with
which he occupied all his time. The letter in full--_Fam._, xii, 8:

    According to my custom, I fled recently from the turmoil of the
    city that is so odious to me, and betook myself to my Helicon
    across the Alps. I brought with me your Cicero, who was greatly
    astonished at the beauty of these new regions and who confessed
    that never--not even when in his own retreat at Arpinum--had
    he (to use his own phrase) been surrounded by cooler streams
    than when with me at the Fountain of the Sorgue. I suppose that
    when, long ago, he visited Narbonne, he did not observe this
    country. And yet, if we are to believe Pliny, this district
    formed part of the province of Narbonne; and, according to
    the present division, it is part of the province of Arles.
    Whatever be the truth concerning the geographical division of
    the provinces, one thing is certain, that the Fountain of the
    Sorgue is most renowned, second neither to the Campanian Nymph
    nor to the Sicilian Arethusa. This soothing, quiet, peaceful
    country, and this delightsome retreat are situated to one
    side of the public highway, to the right of one seeking it,
    to the left of him returning therefrom. I have thus minutely
    described its site lest you might wonder that Cicero, while
    traveling in these parts so long ago, failed to notice this
    sequestered spot, delightful as it is. No mere passer-by has
    ever discovered it. No one has ever reached it except purposing
    to do so through certain knowledge of its existence, drawn
    to the spot by the beauty of the Fountain, or by his desire
    for repose and study. And how unusual this is you will soon
    realize if you consider on the one hand the great scarcity of
    poets, and on the other the multitude of those who have not
    even a smattering of the liberal arts. Cicero therefore seems
    to rejoice and to be eager to remain in my company. We have now
    passed ten quiet and restful days together here. Here only,
    and in no other place outside of Italy, do I breathe freely.
    In truth, study has this great virtue, that it appeases our
    desires for a life of solitude, mitigates our aversion for the
    vulgar herd, tenders us sought-for repose even in the midst of
    the thickest crowds, instils in us many noble thoughts, and
    provides us with the fellowship of most illustrious men even in
    the most solitary forests.

    My companion was attended by a numerous and distinguished
    gathering. Not to mention those of Greek birth, the Romans
    present were Brutus, Atticus, and Herennius, all of them
    rendered still more honorable by their presence in the works
    of Cicero [_Epistolae ad Brutum_, _Atticum_, _Auctor ad
    Herennium_]. Marcus Varro, also, was present, that most learned
    of all men, with whom Cicero strolled in the villa of the
    Academics [_Academica_; cf. n. [20].]; and Cotta, and Velleius,
    and Lucilius Balbus, with whom he so keenly discussed the
    nature of the gods [_De natura deorum_]; and Nigidius and
    Cratippus, with whom he investigated the secrets of nature,
    the origin of the universe and its composition [_Timaeus,
    sive de universo_]. We had with us, moreover, Quintus Cicero,
    with whom he treated of the subject of divination and laws
    [_De divinatione_, _De legibus_]; and his own son, Marcus
    Cicero, to whom (when not as yet degenerated) he addressed his
    _De officiis_, pointing out to him what was honorable, and
    what expedient, and the conflict between the two. Sulpicius,
    Crassus, and Antonius--all very eloquent orators--formed part
    of our company, together with whom he explored the most hidden
    secrets of the art of oratory [_De oratore_]. Cato the Elder,
    too, was with us, whom Cicero made the spokesman in his praise
    of Old Age [_De senectute_]. Of our band were also Lucius
    Torquatus, Marcus Cato Uticensis and Marcus Piso, with whom,
    after a most painstaking discussion, he set down his theory
    of the “summum bonum” [_De finibus_]. Furthermore, we had
    the orator Hortensius, and Epicurus, the former represented
    in Cicero’s praise of philosophy [cf. n. [20].], the latter in
    his attack on a life of pleasure. With Laelius he outlined
    the course of true friendship [_De amicitia_], with Scipio
    the government of the “ideal State.” I shall not prolong my
    enumeration _in infinitum_; I shall merely add that among the
    Roman citizens there mingled many foreign rulers whom Cicero
    defended with his divine powers of oratory. However, not to
    omit those whose presence was due to your little volume,
    my friend, I shall mention Milo whom Cicero defended, and
    Laterensis whom he so fearlessly attacked [_Pro Plancio_],
    and Sulla, for whom he pleaded [_Pro Corn. Sulla_], and
    Pompey, whom he so highly praised [_De imperio Pompei_]. With
    such men and others as my companions, my stay in the country
    has been a quiet, peaceful, and happy one. Would that it had
    continued longer. But alas, they have once again laid their
    claws upon me, and have once again dragged me to the Hades
    whence I am writing you this letter. I have been so busily
    engaged since then that my young attendant has found no time
    whatever for transcribing your volume, nor have I had any
    opportunity of returning it to you. I trust that this will not
    be necessary until I can return it to you in Italy personally.
    I am promising myself an early return, provided I can induce
    our friend Forese to visit the above-mentioned Helicon the
    moment he is not so overwhelmingly occupied by his affairs.
    And I shall insist upon his visit in order that if at any time
    hereafter fate, or the love of change, or the desire to escape
    ennui will compel me to return--not to this city (whither, if
    I can help it, I shall never return), but to my Transalpine
    retreat--I shall be more readily pardoned by my friends in
    Italy by calling upon the testimony of so important a witness.

[23]. _Aeneid_ i, 287, and vi, 794, 795, tr. by Conington (ed. 1900),
pp. 13 and 210.


(_Fam._, XXIV, 5)

On another occasion, O Seneca, I begged and obtained the pardon of
a great man indeed.[24] I should desire similar indulgence on thy
part, if I express myself more sharply than is quite consistent with
the reverence due to thy calling and to the peace of the grave.
Whosoever has seen that I have not spared Marcus Cicero--whom (upon
thy authority[25]) I called the bright luminary and fountain-head
of Latin eloquence--will surely have no just cause for indignation
because in continuing to speak the truth, I shall not spare thee
or anyone else. I derive great enjoyment from speaking with you,
O illustrious characters of antiquity. Each succeeding age has
suffered your works to remain in great neglect; but our own age
is quite content, in its ignorance, with a dearth that has become
extraordinary. For my part, I daily listen to your words with more
attention than can be believed; and so, perchance, I shall not be
considered impertinent in desiring you in your turn to listen to me

I am fully aware that thou art to be numbered among those whose
names are illustrious. Were I unable to gather this from any other
source, I should still learn it from a great foreign authority.
Plutarch, a Greek and the tutor of Emperor Trajan, in comparing
the renowned men of his country with those of ours, opposed Marcus
Varro to Plato and Aristotle (the former of whom the Greeks call
divine, the latter inspired), Vergil to Homer, and Marcus Tullius to
Demosthenes. He finally dared to discuss even the vexed question of
military leaders, in the treatment of which he was not hampered by
the respect due to his great pupil. In one department of learning,
however, he did not blush to acknowledge that the genius of the
Greeks was distinctly inferior, saying that he knew not whom to place
on a par with thee in the field of moral philosophy.[26] Great praise
this, especially from the mouth of a man proud of his race, and a
startling concession, seeing that he had opposed his Alexander the
Macedon to our Julius Caesar.

I cannot explain why it is, but often the most perfect mold of either
mind or body is marred by some serious blemish of nature, which
speaks in such various language. It may be that our common mother
denies perfection to mankind (the more so, indeed, the nearer we
seem to approach it), or else that among so much that is beautiful
even the slightest defect becomes noticeable. That which in a face of
average beauty might be considered an engaging and attractive mark
becomes a positively ugly scar on features of surpassing beauty.
The juxtaposition of contradictory things always sheds light upon
doubtful points.

And yet do thou, O venerable sir and (according to Plutarch)
incomparable teacher of moral philosophy, do thou review with me
calmly the great error of thy life. Thou didst fall upon evil days,
in the reign of the most savage ruler within the memory of man.[27]
Though thyself a peaceful mariner, thou didst guide thy bark, heavily
laden as it was with the most precious goods, toward an unspeakably
dangerous and tempestuous reef. But, I ask, why didst thou tarry
there? Was it, perhaps, that thou mightest the better evince thy
masterly skill in so stormy a sea? None but a madman would have thus
chosen. To be sure, it is the part of a brave man to face danger
resolutely, but not that of a wise man to seek it. Were the prudent
man to be given a free choice, he would so live that there would
never be need of bravery; for nothing would ever happen to him that
would compel him to make any call upon it. The wise man will rather
(as the name implies) check all excessive demonstrations of joy, and
confine his desires within proper bounds. But since the accidents
of life are countless, and since our best-laid plans are many times
undone thereby, we must oppose to mad fortune an unconquerable
fortitude, not from choice (as I have already said), but in obedience
to the hard, inexorable laws of necessity.

But shall I not seem to have lost my senses if I continue to preach
on virtue to the great teacher of morality, and if I labor to prove
that which can by no manner of means be confuted, namely, that it was
folly to remain among the shoals? I leave it for thee to judge--nay,
for anyone who has learned to sail the sea of life even tolerably
well. If thy object was to reap glory from the very difficulty of
thy situation, I answer that it would have been most glorious to
extricate thyself therefrom and to bring thy ship in safety to some
port. Thou didst see the sword hanging perpetually over thy head, yet
didst fear not, nor didst thou take any step to escape from such a
perilous existence. And thou shouldst have, especially since thou
must have realized that thy death was to be that most wretched of all
deaths--one entirely devoid of advantage to others and of glory to
thyself. Thou hadst fallen, O pitiable man, into the hands of one who
had the power to do what he willed,[28] but who willed nothing except
it were most vile. At the very beginning of thy intimate acquaintance
with him thou wert warned by a startling dream,[29] and thereafter,
whenever thou wert closely observant, thou didst discover many traits
that proved thy fears to be well grounded. What, therefore, could
induce thee to remain so long a member of his household? What couldst
thou have in common with such an inhuman and bloodstained pupil? or
with courtiers so repugnant to thy very nature? Thou mayest answer:
“I wished to flee, but could not;” and thou mayest adduce as a plea
that verse of Cleanthes which thou art wont to quote in its Latin

    Fate leads the willing and drags the unwilling.[30]

Thou mayest, moreover, assert that thou didst desire to renounce
thy life of ease, to break the toils in which wealth had enmeshed
thee, and, even though in utter destitution, to escape from such a
whirlpool. This defense was known also to the ancient historians,
and I who follow in their footsteps was not able to pass it over in
silence.[31] But if I concealed my innermost thoughts when defending
thee in public, dost thou suppose that now, when my words are
addressed directly to thee, I shall suppress what my indignation and
love of truth urge me to say? Come now, approach nearer, that no
stranger may overhear on becoming aware that time has not robbed us
of a knowledge of thy doings.

We have (thou must know) a most trustworthy authority, one who,
though writing of men in the highest station, was influenced neither
by fear nor favor, Suetonius Tranquillus. And dost thou know what
he says? That thou didst discourage Nero’s reading of the ancient
orators in order that thou mightest retain him the longer as an
admirer of thine own writings.[32] In other words, thou didst strive
with might and main to be dear to one to whom thou shouldst have
found some means of becoming an object of sovereign contempt and
derision, by either feigning to have, or else really possessing, an
irrepressible tongue. Am I not right? The first cause of all thy
misery was the shallowness of thy aim, not to say its worthlessness.
Though weighed down with years, thou didst pursue the elusive phantom
of glory entirely too joyously, I might almost say childishly. Let
us grant for the moment that it was the advice of another, or an
error on thy part, or even fate that made thee the teacher of that
ungovernable man--for in seeking to excuse our own faults we are wont
to lay the blame on fate. But it was _thy_ fault that thou didst
remain his sponsor. Thou canst not accuse fortune; thy prayers were
answered and thou obtainedst that which thou hadst so ardently longed

But how was it all to end? Ah, thou wretched man! Since thou hadst
endeared thyself to that wild youth to such an extent as to render
it impossible for him to leave thee at will, shouldst thou not at
least have borne with greater resignation the yoke which thou hadst
assumed of thine own accord?[33] Shouldst thou not at least have
refrained from branding the name of thy master with everlasting
infamy?[34] Didst thou not know that tragedy is the most serious of
all compositions, as Naso says?[35] And we all know how biting, how
virulent, and how vehement is the tragedy that thou didst write
against him.[36] Receive my words in good part, O Seneca, and be
calm, for the more impatiently one listens to the truth the more
deeply is he wounded by it. Unless perchance I am wronging thee, and
the contention of some be true, that the author of those tragedies is
not thou, but another bearing the same name. For the Spaniards assert
both that Cordova produced two Senecas,[37] and that the name of
that tragedy (written against Nero) is _Octavia_. In this play there
is a passage that gives rise to the suspicion of authorship.[38] If
we accept the conclusions drawn therefrom, thou wilt be entirely
acquitted of having written the tragedy to avenge the burden of thy
yoke. As far as style is concerned, that other author (whoever he
is) is by no means thy inferior, although he is later than thou in
time and far behind thee in reputation. The more inadequate is the
attack on infamous conduct, the weaker is the intellectual power
of the writer. Indeed, beyond the attack on Nero there is (in my
opinion) no other excuse for the writing of that much-discussed
play. And the attack must be inadequate in this case, for I realize
that no bitterness of either thought or expression could be quite
commensurate with the abominable deeds of that man--if he be worthy
the name of man.

Consider, however, whether it was proper for thee to write of him as
thou didst, when the relationship between you was that of subject
and sovereign, subordinate and superior, teacher and pupil. Was it
fitting that thou shouldst write thus of him whom it was thy custom
to flatter, or rather (not to mince matters) by flattering, deceive?
Re-read the books which thou didst dedicate to him on the subject of
Mercy;[39] recollect the sentiments expressed in the volume which
thou didst address to Polybius on Consolation; finally, run over
thy other works, the fruit of many sleepless nights, provided that
the waters of Lethe have not wiped out all memory of them. Do as I
say, and (I am sure) thou wilt be ashamed of the praises thou didst
lavish upon thy pupil. I for one cannot comprehend thy effrontery in
penning such words of such a man; I cannot read them without a sense
of shame. But thou wilt have recourse to the customary defense, I
know. Thou wilt adduce the youth of the prince and his disposition,
which gave promise of much better results; and thou wilt endeavor to
defend the error of thy choice by his sudden and unexpected change
in life.[40] As if these arguments were unknown to us! But consider
this, how utterly inexcusable it was that a few, unimportant acts of
a charlatan prince, and his murmured hypocritical phrases on duty,
should have warped the mind and judgment of a man of thy discretion,
thy years, thy experience in life, and thy learning. Tell me, pray,
what deed of Nero pleased thee? I mean of course before he plunged
headlong into the abyss of disgraceful crimes--that earlier period
whose deeds some historians record (to use their own words)[41] with
no reproof, others with no inconsiderable amount of praise. Which of
them, I ask, pleased thee? Was it his fondness for contending in the
chariot-race,[42] or for playing on the cithern? We read, in fact,
that he diligently applied himself to these pursuits; that at first
he practiced in secret, in the presence of his slaves and the squalid
poor only, but that later he performed even in public, and, though
a monarch, drove his chariot in sight of all Rome like an ordinary
charioteer; and that, posing as a pre-eminent player, he worshiped
the cithern presented to him as if it had been a divinity.[43] At
last, elated at these successes, and as if not content with the
critical acumen of the Italians, he visited Achaia, and, puffed up
by the adulation of the art-loving Greeks, declared that only they
were worthy of being his listeners.[44] Ridiculous monster, savage
beast![45] Or, perhaps, didst thou consider the following a sure omen
of a good and conscientious ruler, that he consecrated on the Capitol
his first growth of beard, the first molting of his inhuman face?[46]

These surely are acts of thy Nero, O Seneca, and acts performed
by him at an age when the historians still reckoned him among
human beings, and when thou didst strive to set him among the gods
by commendations worthy neither of the one praising nor the one
praised. Indeed, thou didst not hesitate to rank him above that best
of rulers, the deified Augustus.[47] I do not know whether thou
art ashamed of this; I am. But I suppose thou didst deem Nero’s
deeds worthy of greater praise, in that he tortured the Christians,
a truly holy and harmless sect, but (as it seemed to him and to
Suetonius who tells the story) guilty of embracing a new and baneful
superstition.[48] Nero had now become the persecutor and the most
bitter enemy of all righteousness. In all seriousness, however, I
do not entertain such an evil opinion of thee, wherefore I wonder
all the more at thy earlier resolutions. And naturally so, because
the youthful deeds of Nero were too pitiful and vain, whereas his
persecution was execrable and frightful. This must have been thy
opinion, for in one of thy letters to the apostle Paul thou didst not
only intimate, but actually declare it.[49] Nor, I feel sure, couldst
thou have thought otherwise, once thou hadst given a willing ear to
his holy and heavenly teachings, and hadst embraced a friendship so
divinely held out to thee. Would that thou hadst been more steadfast
and that thou hadst not in the end been torn away from him! Would
that, together with that messenger of the Truth, thou hadst chosen
to die for the sake of that same Truth, for the promised reward in
heaven, and in honor of that great apostle!

The impulse of my subject, however, has taken me too far, and I
perceive that I have begun my sowing too late to entertain any hopes
of a good crop. So farewell forever.

    _Written in the land of the living, in Cisalpine Gaul, between
    the left bank of the greedy Enza and the right bank of the
    bridge-shattering Parma, on the Kalends of Sextilis (August 1)
    in the year from the birth of Him whom I am uncertain whether
    thou didst know or not, the thirteen hundred and forty-eighth._


[24]. A reference to the opening lines of the preceding letter,
_Fam._, XXIV, 4.

[25]. Seneca, _Ep._, 40, 11: “Cicero quoque noster, a quo Romana
eloquentia exsiluit, gradarius fuit;” (cf. Seneca, _Contr._, i,
_praef._ 6). Petrarch refers to that passage in his second letter to
Cicero, _Fam._ XXIV, 4, beginning with the words, “O Romani eloquii
summe parens” (Vol. III, p. 264).

[26]. The only passages in which Plutarch mentions Seneca are “De
cohibenda ira,” _Moralia_, Vol. III, p. 201, ll. 16-23, and “Galba,”
chap. XX, _init._ In neither of these is there any praise of the
philosopher. Moreover, it is useless to search through the works of
Plutarch, because Petrarch was acquainted with not a single one of
his works. Hence the statement made in the Lemaire edition, Vol.
CIV, p. xlviii, that “Petrarch had access to several ancient works
which are absolutely lost to us,” cannot apply in this case at least.
Petrarch, however, was acquainted with the “Institutio Traiani” (a
Latin fabrication), the authenticity of which is today disputed.
P. de Nolhac has pointed this out (II, p. 122), and shows that
Petrarch actually refers to this work by name in the _Remedium_, I,
81. And even closer acquaintance is revealed in _Fam._, XXIV, 7,
where Petrarch writes to Quintilian that the indiscretions of his
wards (Domitian’s grandnephews) were made to detract from his fair
name (Vol. III, p. 280). These words are quoted verbatim from the
“Institutio Traiani” (_Moralia_, Vol. VII, p. 183); and in the same
passage Plutarch makes a precisely similar reference to Seneca and to
Socrates. The grouping of these three names is somewhat contradictory
to the statement which Petrarch makes in the present letter.

[27]. Seneca, _Octavia_, 441-46 (tr. by E. I. Harris):

    SENECA. The garnered vices of so many years
    Abound in us, we live in a base age
    When crime is regnant, when wild lawlessness
    Reigns and imperious passion owns the sway
    Of shameless lust; the victress luxury
    Plundered long since the riches of the world
    That she might in a moment squander them.

[28]. Dante, _Inf._, III, 94-96 (tr. by Longfellow):

    And unto him the Guide: “Vex thee not Charon;
    It is so willed there where is power to do
    That which is willed; and farther question not.”

It borders on the sacrilegious, however, to make this reference, when
we consider the One meant in the verses of Dante.

[29]. Suet., _Nero_, 7. This passage is the source also of _Rer.
mem._, IV, 4, _De somniis_, in which (p. 474) Petrarch gives the
story of this dream at greater length.

    Annaeus Seneca (a Roman senator at the time) was chosen by
    Emperor Claudius as tutor for the young Nero, who then gave
    hopeful signs of a good and kindly nature. The very next
    night Seneca is said to have dreamt that he had as his pupil
    C. Caligula, whose most horrible cruelty had long since met
    with a fitting end. Seneca was awakened, and had good cause
    for wondering greatly. But not much later the humor of Nero
    changed, or, to put it more correctly, it revealed itself, and
    his heart became entirely devoid of feelings of gentleness. All
    wonder was dispelled. Nero was a second Caligula, so much like
    him had he become. Nay! Caligula himself seemed somehow to have
    returned from the regions of the dead. And now I shall return
    to dreams had by emperors.

[30]. Seneca, _Ep._, 107, 11: “Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem
trahunt.” Cf. also _Dial._, i, _De Providentia_, 5, 7: “Fata nos
ducunt.” In _Ep._, 107, 10, Seneca distinctly says that he has
translated the verses from the Greek of Cleanthes. These four verses,
with their translation, can be found in Ramage, _Familiar Quotations
from Latin Authors_, p. 671.

[31]. In _Rer. mem._, III, 3, p. 441, quoted in full in note [33]

[32]. Suet., _Nero_, 52. In this instance, as in all references to
Suetonius in this letter, Petrarch follows his original very closely;
indeed, quotes him almost verbatim (cf. Frac., Vol. III, p. 271).

[33]. Seneca, _Octavia_, 388-407 (tr. by E. I. Harris):

    SENECA. I was content, why hast thou flattered me,
    O potent Fortune, with thy treacherous smiles?
    Why hast thou carried me to such a height,
    That lifted to the palace I might fall
    The farther, look upon the greater crimes?
    Ah, happier was I when I dwelt afar
    From envy’s stings, among the rugged cliffs
    Of Corsica, where my free spirit knew
    Leisure for study. Ah, how sweet it was
    To look upon the sky, th’ alternate change
    Of day and night, the circuit of the earth,
    The moon, the wandering stars that circle her,
    And the far-shining glory of the sky,
    Which when it has grown old shall fall again
    Into the night of chaos,--that last day
    Has come, which ’neath the ruin of the skies
    Shall bury this vile race. A brighter sun,
    Newborn, shall bring to life another race,
    Like that the young world knew, when Saturn ruled
    In the high heavens.

As a comment on this passage, we may repeat, with Dante (_Inf._, V,
121-23, tr. by Longfellow):

          There is no greater sorrow
    Than to be mindful of the happy time
    In misery.

At the time of his exile in Corsica, however, Seneca did not hold
quite the same opinion of his life on that island, and wrote the
_Consolatio ad Polybium_, full of flattery of Emperor Claudius,
mainly to effect his recall.

Petrarch dwells upon the fate of Seneca also in _Rer. mem._, III, 3,
p. 441:

    In a certain tragedy (the _Octavia_) Annaeus Seneca deplores
    in strong and magnificent lines his return from exile in the
    island of Corsica, where he had been living in sweet leisure,
    in most welcome peace of mind, and free to pursue what studies
    he pleased. He shuddered at the daily increasing ungodliness of
    Nero, at the envy of the courtiers which enveloped everything,
    and often sought to escape. But fearing that his riches would
    prove his undoing and would overwhelm him like the waves of the
    sea, he surrendered them all. A wise precaution, truly. For it
    is the part of a wise sailor to hurl his treasures into the
    tempestuous sea, that he may escape by swimming, even though
    entirely destitute. And similarly expedient is it for him who
    fears death at the hands of the enemy to sacrifice calmly the
    limb by which he is fettered, in order that, though maimed, he
    may effect his escape. No one, indeed, reproves Seneca for
    remaining against his will in that hotbed of crimes. He left no
    stone unturned to escape the crisis which he foresaw. But an
    unswerving destiny blocked this man too, and at the very moment
    when success seemed about to crown his efforts. Fate did not
    permit him to pass, until that inhuman and perjured emperor,
    who had often sworn to him that he would die sooner than do him
    an injury, shortened the closing years of his aged teacher,
    not with an untimely, but with an irreverent and an undeserved

[34]. Seneca, _Octavia_, 89-102 (tr. by E. I. Harris):

    OCTAVIA.            Ah, sooner could I tame
    The savage lion or the tiger fierce,
    Than that wild tyrant’s cruel heart, he hates
    Those sprung of noble blood, he scorns alike
    The gods and men. He knows not how to wield
    The fortune his illustrious father gave
    By means of basest crime. And though he blush,
    Ungrateful, from his cursed mother’s hands
    To take the empire, though he has repaid
    The gift with death, yet shall the woman bear
    Her title ever, even after death.

_Octavia_, 240-56:

    OCTAVIA. With the fierce leader’s breath the very air
    Is heavy. Slaughter new the star forebodes
    To all the nations that this vile king rules.
    Typhoeus whom the parent earth brought forth,
    Angered by Jupiter, was not so fierce;
    This pest is worse, the foe of gods and men;
    He from their temples drives th’ immortal gods,
    The citizens he exiles from their land,
    He took his brother’s life, his mother’s blood
    He drank, he sees the light, enjoys his life,
    Still draws his poisonous breath! Ah, why so oft,
    Mighty creator, throwest thou in vain
    Thy dart from royal hand that knows not fear?
    Why sparest thou to slay so foul an one?
    Would that Domitian’s son, the tyrant harsh,
    Who with his loathsome yoke weighs down the earth,
    Who stains the name Augustus with his crimes,
    The bastard Nero, might at last endure
    The penalty of all his evil deeds.

_Octavia_, 630-43:

    AGRIPPINA. Ah, spare, revenge is thine! I do not ask
    For long; th’ avenging goddess has prepared
    Death worthy of the tyrant, coward flight,
    Lashes, and penalties that shall surpass
    The thirst of Tantalus, the heavy toil
    Of Sisyphus, the bird of Tityus,
    The flying wheel that tears Ixion’s limbs.
    What though he build his costly palaces
    Of marble, overlays them with pure gold?
    Though cohorts watch the armored chieftain’s gates,
    Though the world be impoverished to send
    Its wealth to him, though suppliant Parthians kneel
    And kiss his cruel hand, though kingdoms give
    Their riches, yet the day shall surely come
    When for his crimes he will be called to give
    His guilty soul; when, banished and forlorn,
    In need of all things, he shall give his foes
    His life-blood.

[35]. Ovid, _Tristia_, ii, 381: “Omne genus scripti gravitate
tragoedia vincit.”

[36]. The _Octavia_. See below, n. [38].

[37]. Martial, i, 61, 7 and 8 (Fried.):

    Duosque Senecas, unicumque Lucanum
          Facunda loquitur Corduba.

And yet these lines never suggested to Petrarch the distinction
between Seneca the rhetorician and Seneca the philosopher.

[38]. Teuffel, par. 290: “The praetexta entitled Octavia is certainly
not by Seneca.” With this compare par. 290, n. 7, which gives a
discussion of the above, and the bibliography. Teuffel says that l.
630 of the _Octavia_ describes the death of Nero, and consequently
could not have been written by Seneca, who died some years earlier.
It is these lines to which Petrarch refers when he says: “In
this play there is a passage that gives rise to the suspicion of

[39]. The _De clementia_, having been written in 55-56 A.D., and
dedicated to Nero, naturally contains numerous passages in praise
of that emperor. We shall choose a few from the first book. _De
clementia_, i, 1, 5-8:

    This, O Caesar, you can boldly assert; that you have most
    diligently cherished everything entrusted to your faithful
    care, and that no harm has been plotted against the State by
    you either through open violence or through stealth. You have
    aspired to that rarest of praise, hitherto granted to none of
    our emperors--the praise of being thoroughly upright. You have
    not labored in vain. Your matchless virtues have not found
    ungrateful and spiteful appraisers. We render thee thanks.
    No one person has ever been as dear to a single man as you
    are to the entire Roman people.... But you have shouldered a
    heavy burden; you have assumed a great responsibility. No one
    now speaks of the deified Augustus, nor of the early years of
    Emperor Tiberius; no one seeks an exemplar beyond you, for
    it is you they wish to imitate. Your rule has been subjected
    to the test of the crucible--a test which it would have been
    difficult to resist, had your goodness been feigned for the
    moment, instead of its being (as it is) an innate quality of
    yours.... The Roman people ran a great risk, uncertain whither
    your noble disposition would end. But the prayers of the people
    have been answered ere this. There is no danger, unless you
    should suddenly become forgetful of your own self.... All your
    citizens today are compelled to make this confession--that
    they are happy; and this second confession--that nothing can
    be added to their complete happiness except the assurance
    that it may endure forever. Many causes urge them to this
    acknowledgment (the very last which man ever condescends to
    make)--their deep security, their prosperity, and their faith
    that the laws will be administered with absolute justice. There
    flits before our eyes a contented State, to whose complete
    freedom nothing is lacking except the liberty of its dying.

It would be beyond our purpose to quote more of Seneca. It will
suffice to give references to an earlier and to a later work. For the
former consult the _Ludus_ (written in 54 A. D.), i, 1; iv, 1; xii,
2. For the latter, _Naturales quaestiones_ (finished before 64 A.
D.), vi, 8, 3; vii, 17, 2; 21, 3.

[40]. Suet., _Nero_, 10.

[41]. Suet., _op. cit._, 19, with which cf. Petrarch, Vol. III, p.

[42]. _Ibid._, 22 (cf. Petrarch, _loc. cit._).

[43]. _Ibid._, 12 (cf. Petrarch, _loc. cit._).

[44]. _Ibid._, 22 (cf. Petrarch, _loc. cit._).

[45]. It may, perhaps, prove interesting to the reader to see by what
epithets Nero is referred to in the _Octavia_. From a cursory reading
of the tragedy we glean the following: “vir crudelis” (Nutrix, 49);
“capax scelerum” (Nutrix, 158); “immitis” (Nutrix, 182); “impius”
(Chorus, 374); “dirus” (Chorus, 674); “coniunx scelestus” (Octavia,
230); “saevus” (Octavia, 667); “princeps nefandus” (Octavia, 232);
“cruentus” (Chorus, 681); “ferus” (Chorus, 703); “dux saevus”
(Octavia, 240); “impius” (Octavia, 242); “hostis deum hominumque”
(Octavia, 245); “monstrum” (Chorus, 383); “natus crudelis”
(Agrippina, 615); “nefandus” (Agrippina, 655); “saevus” (Chorus,
984); “tyrannus” (Octavia, 34, 115, 919); “ferus” (Agrippina, 621_b_,
Octavia, 986).

[46]. Suet., _Nero_, 12.

[47]. Seneca, _De clementia_, i, 11, 1-3:

    While speaking of your clemency, no one will dare, in the
    same breath, to mention the name of the deified Augustus....
    He displayed moderation and kindness, I grant you; but it was
    only after the sea of Actium had been dyed with Roman blood,
    after his own and his enemy’s fleets had been destroyed off
    the coast of Sicily, after the slaughter and proscriptions at
    Perugia. As for me, I do not call exhausted cruelty mercy.
    This, O Caesar, this which you exhibit is true mercy--which
    conveys no idea of repentance for previous barbarity, which
    is immaculate, unstained by the blood of fellow-citizens....
    You, O Caesar, have kept the State free from bloodshed, and
    your greatest boast is that throughout the length and breadth
    of your empire you have shed not a single drop of man’s blood,
    which is all the more remarkable and amazing because no one has
    been intrusted with a sword at an earlier age than you.

In the _Octavia_, however, during a discussion between Seneca and
Nero, in which the philosopher endeavors to destroy his pupil’s
belief in an emperor’s right to rule by the sword, the author says of
a ruler that to

    Give the world rest, his generation peace,
    This is the height of virtue, by this path
    May heaven be attained; this is the way
    The first Augustus, father of the land,
    Gained ’mid the stars a place and as a god
    Is worshiped now in temples (_Oct._, 487-90).

And Nero, who could learn at least those sayings of his tutor that
suited his fancy and served his purpose, thereupon replies in terms
identical with those used by Seneca in _De clementia_, i, 11, 1-3.
Granted that the _Octavia_ was written by Seneca, this discussion
gives a very human touch to the relationship between the subject and
his sovereign.

[48]. Suet., _Nero_, 16 (cf. Petrarch, _loc. cit._).

[49]. It is very probable that Petrarch received the first suggestion
of the friendship between the philosopher and the apostle from the
statement of St. Jerome, _De viris ill._, 12 (_Seneca_ [Teubner],
III, p. 476):

    Lucius Annaeus Seneca of Cordova, disciple of Sotion the Stoic
    and uncle of the poet Lucan, was a man of the most temperate
    life. I should not place him in the catalogue of saints, were
    it not for those letters, which are read by so many, of Paul
    to Seneca and of Seneca to Paul. In these Seneca, though the
    tutor of Nero and the most powerful man of his age, says that
    he wished he held the same position among his fellow-men that
    Paul held among the Christians. He was killed by Nero two years
    before Peter and Paul received the crown of martyrs.

The correspondence referred to in the above is mentioned also by
St. Augustine, _Ep._, 153, 14 (Migne, Vol. XXXIII, col. 659). It
consists of fourteen letters, which are given in the Teubner edition
of Seneca, Vol. III, pp. 476-81. The wish said to have been expressed
by Seneca is to be found in _Ep._, xi, p. 479. The letter, however,
which Petrarch seems to have had in mind--the one describing the
persecution of the Christians in Rome--is _Ep._, xii (_op. cit._, p.
480), which I give in full, that Petrarch’s state of mind may be the
better appreciated.

    Greetings, Paul most dear. Do you suppose that I am not
    saddened and afflicted by the fact that torture is so
    repeatedly inflicted upon the innocent believers of your faith?
    that the entire populace judges your sect so unfeeling and so
    perpetually under trial as to lay at your doors whatever wrong
    is done within the city? Let us bear it with equanimity, and
    let us persevere in the station which fortune has allotted,
    until happiness everlasting put an end to our suffering. Former
    ages were inflicted with Macedon, son of Philip, with Dareius
    and Dionysius. Our age, too, has had to endure a Caligula,
    who permitted himself the indulgence of every caprice. It is
    perfectly clear why the city of Rome has so often suffered the
    ravages of conflagration. But if humble men dared affirm the
    immediate cause, if it were permitted to speak with impunity in
    this abode of darkness, all men would indeed see all things.
    It is customary to burn at the stake both Christians and
    Jews on the charge of having plotted the burning of the city.
    As for that wretch, whoever he is, who derives pleasure from
    the butchering of men and who thus hypocritically veils his
    real intentions--that wretch awaits his hour. Even as all the
    best men are now offering their lives for the many, so will
    he some day be destroyed by fire in expiation of all these
    lives. One hundred and thirty-two mansions and four blocks
    of houses burned for six days, and on the seventh the flames
    were conquered. I trust, brother, that you are in good health.
    Written on the fifth day before the Kalends of April, in the
    consulship of Frugus and Bassus.

Petrarch elsewhere clearly states that he did not think Seneca a
Christian, “tamen haud dubie paganum hominem,” in spite of his
having been placed by St. Jerome among the Christian writers, “inter
scriptores sacros” (_Sen._, XVI, 9, written in 1357).

The fourteen letters are today considered fictitious. Teuffel, par.
289 (and n. 9): “The estimation in which the writings of Seneca
were held caused them to be frequently copied and abridged, but
also produced at an early time such forgeries as the fictitious
correspondence with the apostle Paul” (cf. also Wm. M. Ramsay, _St.
Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen_ [London, 1898], 4th ed.,
pp. 353-56).


(_Fam._, XXIV, 6)

Thy rare integrity, thine activity, and the great splendor of thy
name urge me to love and in fact revere thee. There are some,
indeed, whom we love even after their death, owing to the good and
righteous deeds that live after them; men who mold our character
by their teaching and comfort us by their example when the rest of
mankind offends both our eyes and our nostrils; men who, though they
have gone hence to the common abode of all (as Plautus says in the
Casina[50]), nevertheless continue to be of service to the living.
Thou, however, art of no profit to us, or, at best, of only small
profit. But the fault is not thine--it is due to Time, which destroys
all things. All thy works are lost to us of today. And why not? ’Tis
only of gold that the present age is desirous; and when, pray, is
anyone a careful guardian of things despised?

Thou didst dedicate thyself to the pursuit of knowledge with
incredible zeal and incomparable industry, and yet thou didst not
for that reason abandon a life of action. Thou didst distinguish
thyself in both directions, and deservedly didst become dear to
those supremely eminent men, Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar.
Thou didst serve as a soldier under the one; to the other thou didst
address works worthy of admiration and full of the most varied
learning[51]--a most remarkable fact when we consider that they were
composed ’mid the widely conflicting duties of war and of peace.
Thou art deserving of great praise not only for thy genius and for
thy resolve to keep both mind and body in unremitting activity,
but also for having had the power and the wish to be of service
both to thy age and to all succeeding ages. But alas, thy works,
conceived and elaborated with such great care, have not been deemed
worthy of passing down to posterity through our hands. Our shameless
indifference has undone all thine ardor. Never has there been a
father ever so thrifty but that an extravagant son has been able to
squander within a short time the accumulated savings of years.

But why should I now enumerate thy lost works? Each title is a
stigma upon our name. It is better, therefore, to pass them over
in silence; for probing only opens the wound afresh, and a sorrow
once allayed is renewed by the memory of the loss incurred. But how
incredible is the power of fame! The name lives on, even though
the works be buried in oblivion. We have practically nothing of
Varro[52], yet scholars unanimously agree that Varro was most
learned.[53] Thy friend Marcus Cicero does not fear to make this
unqualified assertion in those very books in which he maintains that
nothing is to be asserted as positive. It is as if the splendor of
thy name had dazzled him; as if, in speaking of thee, he had lost
sight of the principles of his school.[54] Some there are who would
accept this testimony of Cicero only within the narrow bounds of
Latin literature, with whom therefore thou, O Varro, passest as the
most learned of the Romans.[55] But there are some who include Greek
literature as well, particularly Lactantius, a Roman most famous both
for his eloquence and his piety, who does not hesitate to declare
that no man has ever been more learned than Varro, not even among the

Among thy countless admirers, however, two stand out pre-eminently:
one is he whom I have already mentioned, thy contemporary, thy
fellow-citizen, and thy fellow-disciple, Cicero, with whom thou didst
exchange numerous literary productions, thus devoting thy leisure
moments to a useful occupation, in obedience to the precepts of
Cato.[57] And if Cicero’s works were more long-lived than thine,
it must be accounted for by the charm of his style.[58] The second
of thy pre-eminent admirers is a most holy man, and one endowed
with a divine intellect, St. Augustine, African by birth, in speech
Roman. Would that thou hadst been able to consult him when writing
thy books on divine matters! Thou wouldst surely have become a
very great theologian, seeing that thou hadst so accurately and so
carefully laid down the principles of that theology with which thou
wert acquainted. It has been written of thee that thou wert such an
omnivorous reader as to cause wonder that thou couldst find any time
for writing, and that thou wert so prolific a writer as to make it
scarcely credible to us that anyone could even have read all that
thou didst write.[59] And yet, that I may withhold nothing concerning
the present condition of thy works, I shall say that there is not one
extant, or at best they are only in a very fragmentary state. But I
remember having seen some a long time ago,[60] and I am tortured by
the memory of a sweetness tasted only with the tip of the tongue, as
the saying goes. I am of the opinion that those very books on human
and divine matters, which greatly increased the reputation of thy
name, are still perchance in hiding somewhere, in search of which I
have worn myself out these many years. For there is nothing in life
more distressing and consuming than a constant and anxious hope ever

But enough of this. Be of good cheer. Treasure the moral comfort
deriving from thy uncommon labors, and grieve not that mortal things
have perished. Even while writing thou must have known that thy
work was destined to perish; for nothing immortal can be written
by mortal man. Forsooth, what matters it whether our work perish
immediately or after the lapse of a hundred thousand years, seeing
that at some time it must necessarily die? There is, O Varro, a long
line of illustrious men whose works were the result of an application
equal to thine own, and who have not been a whit more fortunate than
thou. And although not one of them was thy peer, yet thou shouldst
follow their example and bear thy lot with greater equanimity. Let
me enumerate some of this glorious company, for the mere utterance
of illustrious names gives me pleasure.[61] The following occur
to me: Marcus Cato the censor, Publius Nigidius, Antonius Gnipho,
Julius Hyginus, Ateius Capito, Gaius Bassus, Veratius Pontificalis,
Octavianus Herennius, Cornelius Balbus, Masurius Sabinus, Servius
Sulpitius, Cloacius Verus, Gaius Flaccus, Pompeius Festus, Cassius
Hemina, Fabius Pictor, Statius Tullianus, and many others whom it
would be tedious to enumerate, men once illustrious and now mere
ashes blown hither and thither by every gust of wind. With the
exception of the first two, their very names are scarcely known
today. Pray greet them in my name, but alas, with thy lips. I do
not send greetings to the Caesars Julius and Augustus and several
others of that rank, even though they were devoted to letters and
very learned, and though I know that thou wert very intimate with
some of them. It will be better, I am sure, to leave the sending of
such greetings to the emperors of our own age, provided they are not
ashamed of their predecessors, whose care and courage built up an
empire which they have overturned. Farewell forever, O illustrious

    _Written in the land of the living, in the capital of the
    world, Rome, which was thy fatherland and became mine, on the
    Kalends of November, in the year from the birth of Him whom I
    would thou hadst known, the thirteen hundred and fiftieth._


[50]. Plautus, _Casina_, _Prol._ 19, 20 (Leo).

[51]. The second part, at least, of the _Antiquitates_, treating of
the “res divinae” and embracing books xxvi-xli, was addressed to
Caesar as _Pontifex Maximus_ (cf. below n. [56] and St. Aug., _De
civ. dei_, VII, 35).

[52]. In 1354, the same year in which Petrarch received a copy of
Homer from Niccoló Sigero, Boccaccio sent him a volume containing
some works of Varro and of Cicero (cf. also _Sen._, XVI, 1). Varro
may have been represented by either the _De re rustica_ or the _De
lingua latina_, or by parts of both. In a letter of thanks for this
favor, Petrarch draws a parallel between the two authors which is
well worth quoting (_Fam._, XVIII, 4):

    No words that I might pen would prove equal to your
    kindness, and I feel sure that I should tire of expressing
    my appreciation much sooner than you of bestowing favors. I
    have received yet another book from you, containing some of
    the excellent and rare minor works of both Varro and Cicero.
    Nothing could have pleased nor delighted me more, for there was
    nothing that I more eagerly desired. What made the volume still
    more precious to me was that it was written in your hand. In
    my opinion, this one fact adds you as a third to the company
    of those two great champions of the Latin tongue. Blush not at
    being classed with such illustrious men,

        “Nor blush your lips to fill the rustic pipe,”

    as the poet says.

    You express admiration for those writers who flourished in
    the period of classical antiquity, the mother of all our
    studies--and rightly so, for it is characteristic of you to
    admire what the rabble despises and on the contrary to disdain
    what it so highly approves of. Yet the time will come when
    men will admire you perchance. Indeed, already has envy begun
    to signal you out. Men of superior intellect always meet with
    ungrateful contemporaries, and this ingratitude, as you are
    well aware, greatly depreciated for a time the works of the
    ancient authors. But fortunately succeeding generations, which
    at least in this respect were more just and less corrupt,
    gradually restored them to their place.

    You showed, moreover, keen discrimination in gathering within
    the covers of one book two authors who, in their lifetime,
    were brought into such intimate relationship by their love of
    country, their period, their natural inclinations, and their
    thirst for knowledge. They loved each other and held each other
    in great esteem; many things they wrote to each other and of
    each other. They were two men with but one soul; they enjoyed
    the instructions of the same master, attended the same school,
    lived in the same State. And yet they did not attain the same
    degree of honor--’twas Cicero who soared higher. In short, they
    lived together in the best of harmony. And believe me, you
    could bring together few such men from all ages and all races.
    To follow common hearsay, Varro was the more learned, Cicero
    the more eloquent. However, if I should dare to speak my own
    say as to ultimate superiority, and if any god or man would
    constitute me judge in a question of such great importance,
    or rather would, without taking offense, deign to listen to a
    voluntary judgment on my part, I should speak freely and as
    my reason dictates. Both men are indeed great. My love and my
    intimate knowledge of one of them may, perhaps, deceive me. But
    the one whom I consider in every sense superior is--Cicero.
    Alas, what have I said? To what yawning precipice have I
    ventured? Oh well, the word has been spoken, the step taken.
    And may I be accused of great rashness rather than of small
    judgment. Farewell.

[53]. “Doctissimus” was as confirmed an epithet when speaking of
Varro as “crafty” of Ulysses, “aged” of Nestor, “divus” of Augustus,
etc. It is unnecessary to give here quotations from the Latin authors
bearing out Petrarch’s statement. Without seeking them at all, the
following have been encountered in the preparation of these notes.
St. Augustine, _De civ. dei_, III, 4: “vir doctissimus eorum Varro;”
IV, 1: “vir doctissimus apud eos Varro et gravissimae auctoritatis;”
IV, 31: “Dicit etiam idem auctor acutissimus atque doctissimus;”
Seneca, _ad Helviam_, viii, 1; Apuleius, _Apol._, 42.

[54]. The reference seems to be a direct one to Cicero’s _Academica
posteriora_; but the wording proves beyond doubt that our author is
quoting instead from St. Augustine. Petrarch’s words are (Vol. III,
p. 275):

    doctissimus Varro est, quod sine ulla dubitatione amicus tuus
    Marcus Cicero in iis ipsis libris in quibus nihil affirmandum
    disputat, affirmare non timuit, ut quodammodo luce tui nominis
    perstringente oculos, videatur interim dum de te loquitur suum
    principale propositum non vidisse.

St. Augustine says (_De civ. dei_, VI, 2):

    in eis libris, id est Academicis, ubi cuncta dubitanda esse
    contendit, addidit “sine ulla dubitatione doctissimo.” Profecto
    de hac re sic erat certus, ut auferret dubitationem, quam solet
    in omnibus adhibere, tamquam de hoc uno etiam pro Academicorum
    dubitatione disputaturus se Academicum fuisset [sic] oblitus.

The only variation between these two passages is that Petrarch has
substituted for the simpler statement of St. Augustine the figure of
the dazzling light.

Petrarch, however, did not have a first-hand acquaintance with the
_Ac. posteriora_. In _Rer. mem._, I, 2, p. 396, the chapter on Varro
gives the entire substance of the present letter. According to
Ancona-Bacci (Vol. I, p. 514), the _Liber rer. mem._ was composed
earlier than 1350--the date of this letter to Varro--which therefore
may have been modeled after the corresponding chapter of the _Rer.
mem._, in which _Ac. post._, i, 3, 9 is cited in full. Hence it
results that _Rer. mem._ I, 2 was based on St. Augustine, and _Fam._,
XXIV, 6, on _Rer. mem._

[55]. St. Augustine distinctly says, _De civ. dei_, XIX, 22: “Varro
doctissimus Romanorum;” and Quintilian, _Inst._, x, 1, 95: “Terentius
Varro, vir Romanorum eruditissimus.”

[56]. Lactantius, _Divin. Inst._, i, 6, 7: “M. Varro, quo nemo umquam
doctior ne apud Graecos quidem vixit, in libris rerum divinarum quos
ad C. Caesarem pontificem maximum scripsit....” (cf. Petrarch, Vol.
III, p. 276).

[57]. _Catonis Disticha_, III, 5 (in _Poetae latini minores_, Vol.

    Segnitiem fugito, quae vitae ignavia fertur;
    Nam cum animus languet, consumit inertia corpus.

P. de Nolhac says (II, p. 110, n. 2) that he has not found in
Petrarch a single reference to the _Catonis Disticha_, which were so
widespread in the Middle Ages. The above, to be sure, is not actually
cited by Petrarch, but it does seem to give the thought contained in
“servata ex Catonis praecepto ratione otii” (III, p. 276).

[58]. St. Augustine, _De civ. dei_, VI, 2:

    And although Varro is less pleasing in his style, he is imbued
    with erudition and philosophy to such an extent that in every
    branch of those studies which we today call secular and which
    they were wont to call liberal, he imparts as much to him
    who is in pursuit of knowledge as Cicero delights him who is
    desirous of excelling in the choice of words.

This entire section (VI, 2) is a panegyric, and proves St. Augustine
a great admirer of Varro. Quintilian, _Inst._, x, 1, 95, is much
briefer: “plus tamen scientiae conlaturus quam eloquentiae.”

[59]. Petrarch (Vol. III, p. 276) quotes verbatim from St. Augustine,
_De civ. dei_, VI, 2. The sense, at any rate, is perfectly clear in
both passages, but seems to have escaped Fracassetti, who, after
correctly rendering “tanto aver letto da far meraviglia che ti
restasse tempo di scriver nulla,” continues, “e scritto aver tanto
che non s’intende come trovassi tempo per leggere alcuna cosa” (Vol.
5, p. 156).

We are reminded, too, of Cicero’s similar boast regarding his own
literary activity at Astura in 45 B. C., “Legere isti laeti qui me
reprehendunt tam multa non possunt quam ego scripsi” (_ad Att._, xii,
40, 2).

[60]. William Ramsay, in Smith’s _Dict. of Grk. and Rom. Biogr., s.
v._ “Varro,” says:

    It has been concluded from some expressions in one of
    Petrarch’s letters, expressions which appear under different
    forms in different editions, that the Antiquities were extant
    in his youth, and that he had actually seen them, although they
    had eluded his eager researches at a later period of life when
    he was more fully aware of their value. But the words of the
    poet, although to a certain extent ambiguous, certainly do not
    warrant the interpretation generally assigned to them, nor does
    there seem to be any good foundation for the story that these
    and other works of Varro were destroyed by the orders of Pope
    Gregory the Great, in order to conceal the plagiarism of St.

And, to the opposite effect, J. A. Symonds, _The Revival of
Learning_, (Scribner, 1900), p. 53, n. 3: “cf. his Epistle to Varro
for an account of a MS of that author.” P. de Nolhac is of the
opinion that Petrarch’s remembrances of the _Antiquitates_ went
through the same evolution as those of the _De gloria_ (cf. the
second letter to Cicero, n. 10).

[61]. With this sentiment compare the words of another enthusiastic
humanist, John Addington Symonds, who writes (Preface, _op. cit._,
written in 1877): “To me it has been a labor of love to record even
the bare names of those Italian worthies who recovered for us in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ‘the everlasting consolations’ of
the Greek and Latin classics.”


(_Fam._, XXIV, 7)

I had formerly heard of thy name, and had read something of thine,
wondering whence it was that thou hadst gained renown for keen
insight. It is but recently that I have become acquainted with thy
talents. Thy work entitled the _Institutes of Oratory_ has come
into my hands, but alas how mangled and mutilated![62] I recognized
therein the hand of time--the destroyer of all things--and thought
to myself, “O Destroyer, as usual thou dost guard nothing with
sufficient care except that which it were a gain to lose. O slothful
and haughty Age, is it thus that thou dost hand down to us men of
genius, though thou dost bestow most tender care on the unworthy?
O sterile-minded and wretched men of today, why do you devote
yourselves to learning and writing so many things which it were
better to leave unlearned, but neglect to preserve this work intact?”

However, this work caused me to estimate thee at thy true worth. As
regards thee I had long been in error, and I rejoice that I have now
been corrected. I saw the dismembered limbs of a beautiful body,
and admiration mingled with grief seized me. Even at this moment,
indeed, thy work may be resting intact in someone’s library, and,
what is worse, with one who perhaps has not the slightest idea of
what a guest he is harboring unawares.[63] Whosoever more fortunate
than I will discover thee, may he be sure that he has gained a work
of great value, one which, if he be at all wise, he will consider
among his chief treasures.

In these books (whose number I am ignorant of, but which must
doubtless have been many) thou hast had the daring to probe again
a subject treated with consummate skill by Cicero himself when
enriched by the experience of a lifetime. Thou hast accomplished the
impossible. Thou didst follow in the footsteps of so great a man, and
yet thou didst gain new glory, due not to the excellence of imitation
but to the merits of the original doctrines propounded in thine own
work. By Cicero, the orator was prepared for battle; by thee he is
molded and fashioned, with the result that many things seem to have
been either neglected or unheeded by Cicero. Thou gatherest all the
details which escaped thy master’s notice with such extreme care that
(unless my judgment fail me) thou mayest be said to conquer him in
diligence in just the degree that he conquers thee in eloquence.
Cicero guides his orator through the laborious tasks of legal
pleading to the topmost heights of oratory. He trains him for victory
in the battles of the courtroom. Thou dost begin far earlier, and
dost lead thy future orator through all the turns and pitfalls of the
long journey from the cradle to the impregnable citadel of eloquence.
The genius of Cicero is pleasing and delightful, and compels
admiration. Nothing could be more useful to youthful aspirants. It
enlightens those who are already far advanced, and points out to
the strong the road to eminence. Thy painstaking earnestness is of
assistance, especially to the weak, and, as though it were a most
experienced nurse, offers to delicate youth the simpler intellectual

But, lest the flattering remarks which I have been making cause thee
to suspect my sincerity, permit me to say (in counterbalancing them)
that thou shouldst have adopted a different style. Indeed, the truth
of what Cicero says in his _Rhetorica_ is clearly apparent in thy
case, namely that it is of very little importance for the orator to
discourse on the general, abstract theories of his profession, but
that, on the contrary, it is of the very highest importance for
him to speak from actual practice therein.[64] I do not deny thee
experience, the second of these two qualities, as Cicero did to
Hermagoras, of whom he was treating.[65] But I submit that thou didst
possess the latter in only a moderate degree; the former, however, in
such a remarkable degree that it seems now scarcely possible for the
mind of man to add a single word.

I have compared this magnificent work of thine with that book which
thou didst publish under the title _De causis_.[66] (And I should
like to say in passing that this work has not been lost, that it
might result the more clearly that our age is especially neglectful
of only the highest and best things, and not so much so of the
mediocre.) In such comparison it becomes plain to the minds of the
discerning that thou hast performed the office of the whetstone
rather than that of the knife,[67] and that thou hast had greater
success in building up the orator than in causing him to excel in
the courts. Pray do not receive these statements in bad part. For
it is as true of thee as of others (and thou must be aware of the
fact) that a man’s intellectual powers are not equally suited for
development in all directions, but that they will evince a special
degree of qualification in one only. Thou wert a great man, I
acknowledge it; but thy highest merit lay in thy ability to ground
and to mold great men. If thou hadst had suitable material to hand,
thou wouldst easily have produced a greater than thyself, O thou who
didst so wisely develop the rare intellects intrusted to thy care!

There was, however, quite a jealous rivalry between thee and a
certain other great man--I mean Annaeus Seneca. Your age, your
profession, your nationality, even, should have been a common bond
between you; but envy (that plague among equals) kept you apart. In
this respect I think that thou, perhaps, didst exercise the greater
self-restraint; for, whereas thou canst not get thyself to give him
full praise, he speaks of thee most contemptuously. I myself should
hesitate to be judged by an inferior. Yet, if I were constituted
judge of such an important question, I should express this opinion.
Seneca was a more copious and versatile writer, thou a keener; he
employed a loftier style, thou a more cautious one. Furthermore, thou
didst praise his genius and his zeal and his wide learning, but not
his choice nor his taste. Thou dost add, in truth, that his style was
corrupt, and vitiated by every fault.[68] He, on the other hand,
numbers thee among those whose name is buried with them,[69] although
thy reputation is still great, and thou hadst been neither dead nor
buried during his lifetime. For he passed away under Nero, whereas
thou didst go from Spain to Rome under Galba, when both Seneca and
Nero were no more. After many years thou didst assume charge of the
grandnephews of Emperor Domitian by his express orders, and becamest
sponsor for their moral and intellectual development.[70] Thou didst
fulfil thy trust, I believe, so far as lay in thy power and with
hopeful prospects in both these directions; although, as Plutarch
shortly afterward wrote to Trajan, the indiscretions of thy wards
were made to detract from thine own fair name.[71]

I have nothing more to say. I ardently desire to find thee entire;
and if thou art anywhere in such condition, pray do not hide from me
any longer. Farewell.

    _Written in the land of the living, between the right slope of
    the Apennines and the right bank of the Arno, within the walls
    of my own city where I first became acquainted with thee, and
    on the very day of our becoming acquainted,[72] on the seventh
    of December, in the thirteen hundred and fiftieth year of Him
    whom thy master preferred to persecute rather than to profess._


[62]. Lapo di Castiglionchio gave Petrarch a copy of the _Institutes_
in 1350. (For further details see n. [72].)

[63]. How very much like a prophecy this reads! But it was a most
natural exclamation for the “first modern scholar,” who stood at the
threshold of the Renaissance, when so many of the classics had as yet
to be discovered.

In a footnote of the Latin edition (Vol. III, p. 278), Fracassetti
informs us that in one of the codices the following remark is added:
“This turned out to be true, for the complete Quintilian was found
at Constance.” This refers to the discovery of a complete manuscript
of Quintilian in 1416. The Florentine scholar Poggio Bracciolini,
while attending the Council of Constance in the capacity of apostolic
secretary, found this copy in an old tower of the monastery of
St. Gall. It is, perhaps, the same as the one now preserved at
Florence--the Codex Laurentianus.

The story of the discovery is well told in a letter by Poggio. This
letter gives such a faithful picture of the enthusiasm of the
humanists, and is of such great interest that, although rather a long
letter, it has been thought best to give a translation of it here in
full (from the Latin text of Jacques Lefant, _Poggiana_, Part IV, pp.


    I am well aware that, in spite of your constant occupations,
    the receipt of my letters is always a source of great pleasure
    to you--so great is your politeness and singular kindness to
    all. I beg of you, however, to be particularly attentive in
    reading the present. I beseech you the more urgently, not
    because I am the possessor of that which even the most learned
    of men may be anxious to share, but rather out of respect due
    to that which I am going to tell you. I feel certain, since
    you are so pre-eminently learned, that the news will bring no
    slight enjoyment to you and to the other scholars.

    For tell me, pray, what is there, or what can there be more
    pleasing, or agreeable, or acceptable to you and to others
    than the knowledge of those things by the study of which we
    become more learned and (what is of even greater moment) more
    discriminating in our likes and dislikes? Our great parent,
    nature, gave to the human race a reasoning mind, which we are
    to consult as our guide in the conduct of a good and happy
    life, than which nothing better could be imagined. I am not so
    sure but that, after all, by far the most extraordinary gift of
    nature is the power of speech, without which the reason and the
    intellect were of no avail.

    Speech, in giving external expression to the workings of the
    mind, is the one faculty which distinguishes us from other
    creatures. We should therefore consider ourselves under deep
    obligation to all those who have developed the liberal arts,
    but under deepest obligation to those who, by their patient and
    unremitting study, have handed down to us the rules of oratory
    and the norms of correct speech. In short, although mankind is
    especially superior to all other living creatures through its
    use of speech, these scholars have striven that in just this
    respect men should excel themselves.

    Many illustrious Roman authors devoted themselves to the study
    and to the development of the human speech, as you know.
    Chief and foremost among them was M. Fabius Quintilianus, who
    describes the method for the development of the perfect orator
    with such clearness, and with such characteristic carefulness
    that, in my opinion, he lacked nothing as regards either
    the broadest knowledge or the highest eloquence. Even if we
    possessed nothing of Cicero, the father of Roman eloquence, we
    should still attain to a perfect knowledge of correct speech
    with Quintilian alone as our guide.

    Hitherto, however, among us (and by this I mean among us
    Italians) Quintilian was to be had only in such a mangled and
    mutilated state (the fault of the times, I think), that neither
    the figure nor the face of man was to be distinguished in him.
    [For the parts then missing see Sabbadini, _Scoperte_, p. 13,
    n. 64.] You yourself have seen him [_Aen._, vi, 495-97]:

              “His body gashed and torn,
        His hands cut off, his comely face
        Seamed o’er with wounds that mar its grace,
              Ears lopped, and nostrils shorn.”
                      --(Conington, ed. 1900, p. 195)

    A grievous fact, indeed, and an insufferable, that in the foul
    mangling of so eloquent a man we should have inflicted such
    great loss upon the domain of oratory. But the greater was
    our grief and our vexation at the maiming of that man, the
    greater is our present cause for congratulation. Thanks to our
    searchings, we have restored Quintilian to his original dress
    and dignity, to his former appearance, and to a condition of
    sound health. [Andreolo Arese seems to have found a complete
    Quintilian in France as early as 1396. See Sabbadini, _op.
    cit._, pp. 35, 36.]

    Forsooth, if M. Tullius rejoices heartily in having secured the
    return of M. Marcellus from exile, and that too at a time when
    there were at Rome many other Marcelli who were just as good
    men, just as prominent and well known both at home and abroad,
    what are the learned men of today (and especially students of
    oratory) to do, seeing that this matchless glory of the Roman
    name (because of whose loss nothing was left except Cicero),
    and that this work, which but recently was so mangled and
    fragmentary, have been recalled not merely from exile but from
    utter destruction?

    By Hercules, unless we had brought him aid in the nick of
    time, he would have died shortly. There is not the slightest
    doubt that that man, so brilliant, genteel, tasteful, refined,
    and pleasant could not longer have endured the filthiness of
    that dungeon, the squalor of that place, and the cruelty of
    those jailors. He was dejected and shabby in appearance, like
    unto those who have been condemned to death. His beard was
    unkept, and his hair matted with blood. [A quotation of _Aen._,
    ii, 277.] His very features and dress cried out that he was
    sentenced to an undeserved death. He seemed to stretch out
    his hands to me, to implore the assistance of the Quirites to
    protect him against an unjust judge. He seemed to be making an
    accusation, in that he, who once had been the means of safety
    to so many with his resourceful eloquence, could now find not
    a single patron to take pity on his misfortune, not one who
    would consult for his safety or prevent his being led out to an
    unmerited end.

    Often by mere chance, things come to pass which we do not dare
    to hope for, as Terence says [_Phormio_, 5, 1, vss. 30, 31].
    And so Fortune (and not so much his as ours) would have it
    that, when we found ourselves at Constance with nothing to do,
    a sudden desire should seize us of visiting the place where
    Quintilian was imprisoned--the monastery of St. Gall, twenty
    miles away. And so several of us proceeded thither [among whom
    Bartolomeo da Montepulciano and Cencio Rustici: Sabbadini,
    _op. cit._, p. 77] to relax our minds and at the same time to
    search through the volumes of which there was said to be a
    great number. There, among crowded stacks of books which it
    would take long to enumerate, we discovered a Quintilian, still
    safe and sound, but all moldy and covered with dust. For the
    books were not in the library, as their merit warranted, but in
    a most loathsome and dreary dungeon at the very foundations of
    one of the towers--a place into which not even those awaiting
    execution would be thrust.

    I for one feel certain that if there were any today who would
    tear down these barbarian penitentiaries in which such men are
    held prisoners, and would submit them to a most careful search,
    as our predecessors did, they would meet with the same good
    fortune in the case of many authors whose loss we now mourn.

    In addition to the Quintilian, we discovered the first three
    books and half the fourth book of the _Argonauticon_ of C.
    Valerius Flaccus [books i-iv, 317: Sabbadini, _op. cit._,
    p. 78]; and explanations or commentary on eight orations of
    Cicero by Q. Asconius Pedianus, a very eloquent man mentioned
    by Quintilian himself. All these I transcribed with my own
    hand, and somewhat hastily [the Quintilian in thirty-two days,
    Burckhardt, p. 189], for I was anxious to send them to Leonardo
    Bruni of Arezzo and to Niccoló of Florence [Niccoló Niccoli,
    for whom he was acting as agent].

    You have now, my dearest Guarino, all that could be given to
    you, for the present, by one who is most devoted to you. I wish
    I could have sent to you the book as well. But I had to please
    our Leonardo first. Still, you now know where it is to be had,
    so that if you really want to have it (which I should judge to
    be as soon as possible), you can easily obtain it. Farewell.

    At Constance, December 16, 1416.

The real date of the discovery is in June or July, 1416; cf.
Sabbadini, _op. cit._, p. 78.

[64]. Cic., _De inv._, i, 6 _extr._

[65]. Fracassetti translates this passage, Vol. 5. p. 160 (at
bottom): “Non io peró, com’egli ad Ermagora, a te vorrei dell’una o
dell’altra cosa negare il vanto.” From this rendering, one receives
the impression that Cicero was equally ready to deny Hermagoras both
theory and practice. Cicero, however, distinctly testifies to the
theoretical ability of Hermagoras in the words “quod hic [i. e., H.]
fecit,” and just as distinctly affirms his lack of experience--“ex
arte dicere, quod eum minime potuisse omnes videmus.” The words of
Petrarch now, therefore, become clear. He says (Vol. III, p. 279):
“oratori minimum de arte loqui, multo maximum ex arte dicere. Non
tamen ut ille [i. e., Cicero] Hermagorae de quo agebat, sic ego tibi
horum alterum eripio.”

[66]. This work has sometimes been wrongly identified with the
_Dialogus de oratoribus_, which was not known until the fifteenth
century. The _De causis_ mentioned by Petrarch must be a reference
to the collection of _Declamationes_ which in the Middle Ages passed
as the work of Quintilian (P. de Nolhac, II, pp. 84, n. 3, and 85;
Teuffel, par. 325 and n. 11).

[67]. Horace, _Ars Poetica_, 304, 305.

[68]. These criticisms are to be found in Quintilian, book x. Since
Petrarch uses almost the same words, and in fact quotes verbatim
in the last instance, the tenth book (or at least this portion of
it) must have been part of the Quintilian given him by Lapo di
Castiglionchio (see n. [72]). Petrarch says (Vol. III, p. 280): “et
tu [i. e., Quintilian] quidem ingenium eius et studium et doctrinam
laudas [Quint., x, 1, 128], electionem ac iudicium non laudas [x, 1,
130]: stilum vero corruptum et omnibus vitiis fractum dicis [x, 1,
125].” (For the parts of the _Institutes_ generally missing in the
Middle Ages, see Sabbadini, _Scoperte_, p. 13, n. 64.)

[69]. Sen., _Contr._, x, _praef._ 2: “Pertinere autem ad rem non puto
... quomodo L. Asprenas aut Quintilianus senex declamaverit: transeo
istos quorum fama cum ipsis extincta est.” This criticism, evidently,
was not spoken by Seneca the philosopher, as Petrarch thought, but by
the elder Seneca, the author of the _Controversiae_ and _Suasoriae_.
Petrarch has simply confused the two, not being aware of the
existence of the latter. Furthermore, the elder Seneca died before or
about the time that Quintilian was born. Hence the criticism could
not have referred to the author of the _Institutes_, but, perhaps, to
Quintilian’s father (who is merely mentioned in Quint., ix, 3, 73),
or to Sextus Nonius Quintilianus, consul in 8 A.D. In either case
the identity of this other Quintilian remains a doubtful one.

[70]. There is no question that Quintilian’s pupils were the sons
of Flavius Clemens and Domitilla the Younger--in other words, the
grandsons of Emperor Domitian’s sister, and hence his grandnephews.
The Italian version wrongly gives (Vol. 5, p. 162): “i figli di
sua sorella, nipoti suoi--the sons of his sister, his nephews.”
Petrarch’s Latin reads (Vol. III, p. 280): “sororis Domitiani
principis nepotum curam ipso mandante suscipiens.” The confusion
seems to arise from the double function of the Italian word “nipoti”
for both “nephews” and “grandchildren.”

[71]. Plutarch, _Moralia_ (ed. Gregorius N. Bernardakis), Vol. VII,
p. 183, “Institutio Traiani, Epistola ad Traianum,” 11, 7-16:

    I therefore congratulate you upon your merits, and myself upon
    my good fortune, provided that in the exercise of your power
    you exhibit the same justice and honesty which have earned
    it for you. Otherwise I am sure that you will be exposed to
    serious dangers, and that I shall be subjected to the criticism
    of my detractors. For Rome cannot tolerate worthless emperors,
    and men, in their gossiping, are wont to heap upon teachers
    the faults of their pupils. In consequence, Seneca is justly
    censured by those who detract from his Nero, Quintilian is
    justly charged with the rash acts of his wards, and Socrates
    is justly accused of having been over-indulgent with his pupil.

Petrarch’s words, “tuorum adolescentium temeritas in te refunditur”
(Vol. III, p. 280), are directly quoted from the pseudo-Plutarch’s
“adolescentium suorum temeritas in Quintilianum refunditur.” Cf. also
Petrarch, _De rem._, I, 81.

[72]. Fracassetti omits to translate this thought, though it seems
to result clearly from Petrarch’s words (Vol. III, p. 280): “Apud
superos ... ubi primum mihi coeptus es nosci, eoque ipso tempore.”
In the Latin edition Fracassetti notes that in one of the codices in
the Laurentian Library, Lapo di Castiglionchio entered the following
comment on these words: “You speak truly, for it was I who presented
you with that work while you were on your way to Rome--a work which,
as you said, you had never seen before.” The omission mentioned above
seems, however, to have been a mere slip. For elsewhere, in speaking
of the same occurrence, Fracassetti says (Vol. 2, p. 249): “a lui
[Petrarca] Lapo fece la prima volta conoscere, e donó le Istituzioni
di Quintiliano, per lo acquisto delle quali egli nel giorno stesso
scrisse una lettera a Quintiliano medesimo.”


(_Fam._, XXIV, 8)

I should wish (if it were permitted from on high) either that I had
been born in thine age or thou in ours; in the latter case our age
itself, and in the former I personally should have been the better
for it. I should surely have been one of those pilgrims who visited
thee. For the sake of seeing thee I should have gone not merely to
Rome, but indeed, from either Gaul or Spain I should have found my
way to thee as far as India.[73] As it is, I must fain be content
with seeing thee as reflected in thy works--not thy whole self, alas,
but that portion of thee which has not yet perished, notwithstanding
the sloth of our age. We know that thou didst write one hundred
and forty-two books on Roman affairs. With what fervor, with what
unflagging zeal must thou have labored; and of that entire number
there are now extant scarcely thirty.[74]

Oh, what a wretched custom is this of wilfully deceiving ourselves!
I have said “thirty,” because it is common for all to say so. I
find, however, that even from these few there is one lacking. They
are twenty-nine in all, constituting three decades, the first, the
third, and the fourth, the last of which has not the full number of
books.[75] It is over these small remains that I toil whenever I wish
to forget these regions, these times, and these customs. Often I am
filled with bitter indignation against the morals of today, when
men value nothing except gold and silver, and desire nothing except
sensual, physical pleasures. If these are to be considered the goal
of mankind, then not only the dumb beasts of the field, but even
insensible and inert matter has a richer, a higher goal than that
proposed to itself by thinking man. But of this elsewhere.

It is now fitter that I should render thee thanks, for many reasons
indeed, but for this in especial: that thou didst so frequently cause
me to forget the present evils, and transfer me to happier times. As
I read, I seem to be living in the midst of the Cornellii Scipiones
Africani, of Laelius, Fabius Maximus, Metellus, Brutus and Decius, of
Cato, Regulus, Cursor, Torquatus, Valerius Corvinus, Salinator, of
Claudius, Marcellus, Nero, Aemilius, of Fulvius, Flaminius, Attilius,
Quintius, Curius, Fabricius, and Camillus. It is with these men that
I live at such times and not with the thievish company of today among
whom I was born under an evil star. And Oh, if it were my happy lot
to possess thee entire, from what other great names would I not seek
solace for my wretched existence, and forgetfulness of this wicked
age! Since I cannot find all these in what I now possess of thy work,
I read of them here and there in other authors, and especially in
that book where thou art to be found in thy entirety, but so briefly
epitomized that, although nothing is lacking as far as the number of
books is concerned, everything is lacking as regards the value of the
contents themselves.[76]

Pray greet in my behalf thy predecessors Polybius and Quintus
Claudius and Valerius Antias, and all those whose glory thine own
greater light has dimmed; and of the later historians, give greeting
to Pliny the Younger, of Verona, a neighbor of thine, and also to
thy former rival Crispus Sallustius. Tell them that their ceaseless
nightly vigils have been of no more avail, have had no happier lot,
than thine.

Farewell forever, thou matchless historian!

_Written in the land of the living, in that part of Italy and in that
city in which I am now living and where thou wert once born and
buried, in the vestibule of the Temple of Justina Virgo, and in view
of thy very tombstone;[77] on the twenty-second of February, in the
thirteen hundred and fiftieth year[78] from the birth of Him whom
thou wouldst have seen, or of whose birth thou couldst have heard,
hadst thou lived a little longer._


[73]. Petrarch briefly relates the same story in _Rer. mem._, II, 2,
“De Ingenio.” He says, p. 411:

    In what rank, indeed, will Titus Livy be placed, whose great
    reputation for eloquence drew illustrious and admiring men from
    the remotest corners of the globe all the way to Rome? This is
    related by Pliny, and in later years it was repeated by St.
    Jerome in the beginning of his preface to the book of Genesis,
    placed thus at the beginning that no one might be excused for
    being ignorant of it. How great must have been the excellence
    of that work, when, over immense distances of land and sea,
    men rushed to the mistress of the world, to that city which
    held sway over conquered nations, not to accomplish any urgent
    business transaction, not because of a desire to see the city
    itself (and that, too, such as it must have been under Caesar
    Augustus), but that they might see and hear that single one of
    its inhabitants.

Pliny tells the story in _Ep._, ii, 3, 8; but Pliny the Younger was
an author unknown to Petrarch (P. de Nolhac, I, p. 129, n. 1, and p.
235, n. 3; Sabbadini, _Scoperte_, p. 26). The reference to St. Jerome
is _Ep._, 53, written to Paulinus _ca._ 394 A. D., which appears as
the first of the _Praefationes_ in the 1903 edition of the Vulgate,
p. xviii (by Valentinus Loch). Petrarch therefore must have had
the letter of St. Jerome in mind, or before him. In his own letter
to Livy, Petrarch mentions both Gaul and Spain. In Pliny there is
mention of Cadiz only. Both Gaul and Spain, however, are mentioned
by St. Jerome. Furthermore, the references to Livy’s being the one
great man in Rome at that time, and to the splendor of the city under
Augustus, are both traceable to St. Jerome, who, therefore, must have
been the source for both the passage in the _Rer. mem._, and for that
in this letter to Livy. The passage in St. Jerome reads as follows,
Vol. XXII, col. 541 (ed. Migne):

    Ad T. Livium lacteo eloquentiae fonte manantem, de ultimis
    Hispaniae Galliarumque finibus quosdam venisse nobiles legimus;
    et quos ad contemplationem sui Roma non traxerat, unius hominis
    fama perduxit. Habuit illa aetas inauditum omnibus saeculis
    celebrandumque miraculum, ut urbem tantam ingressi, aliud extra
    urbem quaererent.

Finally, that this passage from St. Jerome was the source used by
Petrarch is proved also by _Sen._, XVI (XV), 7 (_Op._, p. 958):

    St. Jerome records having read that certain prominent men
    undertook the long journey from the furthermost limits of Spain
    and the two Gauls to Rome merely to see Livy. Do you for a
    moment suppose that there was insufficient cause, not merely
    for these few men, but indeed for the whole world to rush
    thither, that they might see the man with their own eyes and
    hear him with their own ears? I shall here omit styling him a
    pure fountain of eloquence, as St. Jerome did (_Ep._, 53), or
    an overflowing fountain of eloquence--an epithet which Valerius
    used in speaking of his Pompeius [Val. Max., ii, 6, 8. The
    _Pompeius_ referred to is No. 20 in Smith’s _Dict._ Fracassetti
    goes entirely astray in the translation of this passage,
    _Sen._, 2, p. 503]. Still, how commendable a desire was it to
    see that man who, even if he had done nothing else in his life,
    or if he could have added not a single thought to his work,
    had already earned everlasting renown for completing unaided
    and in 142 books, that stupendous work containing the entire
    history of Rome from its very origins! Moreover, C. Caligula to
    the contrary notwithstanding (Suet., _Cal._, 34), this work was
    written throughout in a divine style and with extreme care. It
    was a work approaching the miraculous. The life of a single man
    would scarcely suffice even to transcribe this work, much less
    to produce a similar one. How worthy a desire was it, then, to
    behold the head which had conceived so much, and the hand which
    had penned such noble words of such noble deeds! If T. Livy
    were alive today, I believe that not merely a few, but very
    many would set out on their pilgrimage to him. As for myself,
    if my health were sounder (as it was but recently), if it were
    as strong as my desires, and if the road were safe, I should
    not consider it irksome to seek him, not merely at Rome, but as
    far as India, setting out from this very city of Padua which
    gave him birth and where I have now been staying for many years.

The letter from which the above is quoted bears the date Padua, May
12, 1373.

[74]. The extent of Petrarch’s acquaintance with Livy results even
more clearly from a passage in another of his works. It is short
enough to be quoted in full. In _Rer. mem._, I, 2, “De studio et
doctrina,” Petrarch, after giving examples of native-born Romans,
says, p. 397:

    And now, in going beyond the walls of the city, we need not at
    once leave the confines of Italy. With what ardor must T. Livy
    of Padua have toiled, who, within the compass of 142 books,
    wrote a complete history of Rome from the founding of the city
    to the reign of Caesar Augustus, under whom he flourished?
    This was a work remarkable for its mere bulk; and it was a
    stupendous work particularly for this reason--that in composing
    it he did not write hurriedly, nor (as the saying goes) did he
    employ a confused and disordered style, as certain others do,
    who slap down in writing every word that happens to be on the
    tip of their tongue. On the contrary, the history of Livy is
    couched in sentences of such great majesty and in words of such
    dignity and propriety that it is practically a textbook for
    choice and elegant diction.

    But alas! Oh, lasting shame of our age! Scarcely a small
    portion of this great and splendid work survives. Of the 14
    decades into which it was subdivided--either by the author
    himself, or (as I think more likely) by the indolent readers
    of later generations--there are extant but three! These are
    the first, the third, and the fourth. At the urgent request
    of King Robert of Sicily (of sacred memory), I myself have
    searched most diligently for the second decade, but up to this
    moment I have searched in vain. I pray I may be proved to be a
    false prophet. But unless customs change, I fear lest within
    a short time that very fate overtake Livy which formerly it
    was the intention of Gaius Caligula, most hateful of tyrants,
    to bring upon him. For we read in Suetonius Tranquillus that
    Caligula had been on the point of removing from all libraries
    the history of T. Livy and the works and busts of the poet
    Vergil. I fear then, that, although an emperor’s cruelty proved
    insufficient, our own regardless inactivity may gradually
    succeed in casting the veil of oblivion over the resplendent
    genius of this man.

The reference to Suetonius is _Cal._, 34, which Petrarch quotes
almost verbatim, his words being: “quod T. Livii historiam, et
Virgilii poetae libros et imagines, parum abfuit, quin ab omnibus
bibliothecis amoveret.”

[75]. We are indebted to the excellent study of P. de Nolhac so often
cited (_Pétrarque et l’humanisme_) for exact information on this
point. The book missing from the manuscript of Livy which Petrarch
possessed was book xxxiii. On fol. 317, in commenting on the words
“Cynoscephalas, ubi debellatum erat cum Philippo” (Livy, xxxvi,
8), Petrarch wrote in the margin, “Sed quando hoc fuerat deficit
sine dubio, et ut puto unus liber.” Even book xl was not complete,
although Petrarch may not have been aware of the fact, since he
does not complain thereof. His manuscript ended with the words,
“conciliabulaque edixerunt” (chap. 37) which seemed to close the
book in a manner making complete sense (P. de Nolhac, II, p. 16).
Bacumker (_Quibus antiquis auctoribus Petrarca in conscribendis rerum
memorabilium libris usus sit_, p. 14), went so far as to say (in
1882) that Petrarch did not have books xxxi-xxxv. It is now certain
that Petrarch possessed the first and the third decades entire, and
books xxxi, xxxii, and xxxiv to xl, the last of which ended with
chap. 37--in all nearly twenty-nine books.

[76]. Petrarch here refers to the epitome of Florus. The
Codex in Petrarch’s possession contained the works of several
historians--Dictys, Florus, Livy, etc. (see P. de Nolhac, II, p. 15),
and had been bought by Petrarch at Avignon in 1351, after the death
of Soranzio (or Soranzo) Raimondo, to whom it had probably belonged
(_ibid._, p. 21). The date of the purchase almost compels us to adopt
1351 as the date of this letter (see n. [78]).

[77]. Between the years 1335 and 1344 there was found in the
monastery of Santa Giustina of Padua a sepulchral inscription bearing
the name of T. Livius. Without troubling themselves with further
investigations, the Benedictine monks who had made the discovery
jumped to the conclusion that the stone was that which had been
erected over the dead Roman historian. They consequently placed it in
the vestibule of their church, and over it placed a likeness of the
historian. Petrarch was stopping at the cloister opposite the church
of Santa Giustina; thus the phrase employed at the close of the
letter is clear.

In 1413 a leaden casket came to light in the same place. Inasmuch as
the monks had learned from those of the previous generation that Livy
had been buried there, they concluded (again without warrant) that
the casket must contain the remains of Livy, although (as Polentonus
says) there were not lacking, even at that time, those who denied
the fact. For a description of the great ado caused by this supposed
discovery, read the letter by Sicco Polentonus, quoted in the
introductory note to _Corpus inscriptionum latinarum_, V, 2865. The
inscription itself was believed to be that of Livy until the middle
of the seventeenth century (P. de Nolhac, II, p. 12, n. 3).

[78]. P. de Nolhac (II, p. 12, n. 3) says that the Paris manuscript
bears the date 1351 (cf. n. [76] above).


(_Fam._, XXIV, 9)

Long ago the thought entered my mind of addressing letters of
familiar intercourse to certain far-off masters of eloquence,
embracing in the number those who had been the rare ornaments of
the Latin tongue. I should not wish, therefore, to pass thy name
over in silence, the more so that, according to the testimony of
great writers, thy fame was second to none. Since, however, thy
reputation has come down to us stripped almost bare of facts, it must
be substantiated by the writings of others rather than of thyself, a
fact which I deservedly number among the shameful losses of our age.
I shall have, therefore, but little to say to thee.

I congratulate thee in that thou didst enjoy the honors of a
consulship as well as those of a triumph;[79] I congratulate thee for
the praises bestowed upon thy lofty intellect and polished eloquence,
and for thy many other endowments of body and mind and fortune.[80]
I give thee special congratulations, however, for having lived under
the best of princes, who cherished most dearly both letters and
virtues, and who was a competent judge of thy deeds. O happy thou,
who didst fill the just measure of thy life while Augustus was still
reigning, bringing an illustrious life to a peaceful close at thy
Tusculan villa and in the eightieth year of thine age.[81] Thou didst
escape the bloody hands of Tiberius, into which the orator Asinius
Gallus fell, thy ill-fated offspring who, as we read, was killed
by him with dreadful suffering.[82] Fortunate indeed was it that
a timely death overtook thee, seeing toward what great misery thy
destiny was already beginning to urge thee. Death saved thine eyes
from witnessing such a sad spectacle at least. Only a few years more
and, to thy great sorrow, thou wouldst have shared the fate of thy
son, or wouldst have been compelled to look on.[83] His death must
have diminished thy happiness in no slight degree--if it be true (as
some thinkers claim) that the dead are affected by the lot of the

The laws of true friendship forbid me to conceal or pass over a
certain thing in silence--for friendship binds me to the names and
ashes of the illustrious dead of every age no less effectually than
if they were alive. The thing, therefore, which greatly distressed
me in thee was, that thou didst resolve to be such a very bitter
and severe critic (not to say censurer) of Marcus Tullius.[84] In
all justice thou shouldst have been the first to praise and exalt
his name in thy writings. If thy defense is that thou hadst a right
to freedom of thought, I shall answer that I do not deny thee
such freedom, even though I do not agree with thy conclusions. I
maintain, however, that thou shouldst have made more sparing use
of thy freedom. Such counsel comes too late now, I know. Yet thou
canst easily obtain indulgence from others[85] since thou didst so
often exercise the same freedom against him who was then ruling the

It is rather difficult, I grant thee, for fortune’s favorite to
curb the mind and the tongue. The seriousness of purpose consonant
with thy great age and learning compels me to exact from thee
careful consideration in all matters. Furthermore, it obliges me to
censure thee for thy actions more severely than I should either thy
son, who held the same opinions as thou because he followed in thy
footsteps,[87] or Calvus and others of the same party.[88]

I am not so forgetful of myself as to deny thee the exercise of the
same privilege in the case of a contemporary (whom thou couldst
both see and know) that I have enjoyed, after so many centuries, in
the case of a man of such reputation and so far removed from me in
time. No one is perfect. Who, then, shall forbid thee, a man of such
eminence, to call attention to anything reprehensible in the ways of
thy neighbor, when even I who am so far removed have found things
to criticise in his writings? But the moment thou dost attack his
reputation for eloquence, the moment thou dost endeavor to wrest from
him his supremacy in the field of oratory--a supremacy bestowed upon
him from heaven and granted to him without dispute and by the common
consent of nearly the entire world--that moment see to it that thou
be not inflicting too palpable an injury.

Beware, and with thee let Calvus beware, that you do not enter upon
an ill-matched struggle against Cicero for the palm in oratory. It
is a very easy task for us to watch the contest as spectators. But
the crown of victory has long since been awarded.[89] You have been
conquered. Vain are your struggles and obstructions! The ruffling
of your own pride prevents you from seeing the truth. In my opinion
you would have been great men, had you been able to acknowledge a
greater than yourselves. But man, in his pride, is raised by false
opinions to higher levels than those to which he rightfully belongs;
and from this high station truth then causes him to sink to a lower
level than he might justly have deserved. Many have lost their own
reward of glory in hungering after that of others.

It was envy, perchance, that prompted your actions, for those of
your companions who envied Cicero were as numerous as those who were
blinded by their pride. If so, again am I more vexed at thee than at
Calvus, for the latter had some cause, in fact had good cause, not
merely for envying Cicero but for hating him.[90] I know of not the
slightest cause for hatred in thy case. And therefore it seems all
the more a pity to me that envy, which is wont to creep along the
ground, should have seized upon so lofty an intellect as was thine.

Farewell forever. Of the Greek orators, give greetings to Isocrates,
Demosthenes, and Aeschines; of the Romans, to Crassus and Antonius,
and indeed to Corvinus Messala and Hortensius, provided that the
former of these last two, now that he is rid of the encumbrances of
the flesh, has regained the memory which he lost two years before
departing hence,[91] and that the latter has not lost his.

_In a suburb of Milan, on the first of August of this last age the
thirteen hundred and fifty-third year._


[79]. Suet., _Rel._ (Teubner), p. 289, ll. 34 f.: “Asinius Pollio
orator et consularis, qui de Dalmatis triumphaverat, in villa
Tusculana anno octogesimo aetatis suae moritur” (St. Jerome, _Chron.,
a. Abr._, 2020, in Migne, Vol. XXVII, col. 441, and Reiff., p. 82).

[80]. Some examples of praises bestowed upon Pollio are: Catullus,
_Carm._, xii, 9: Horace, _Carm._, ii, 1, 13: Quintilian, x, 2, 25;
xii, 10, 11; x, 1, 113 has praise mingled with censure:

    Asinius Pollio possesses a well-developed faculty of invention,
    and great accuracy not only of language (which to some, indeed,
    appears too accurate), but also of method and of spirit. But he
    is so far from possessing the brilliant and pleasing style of
    Cicero that he might seem to belong to the preceding century.

[81]. See n. [79] above.

[82]. See Smith’s _Dict._:

    Tiberius hated him, partly on account of his freedom in
    expressing his opinion, but more especially because Asinius
    Gallus had married Vipsania, the former wife of Tiberius. At
    last the emperor resolved upon getting rid of him. In A. D. 30
    he invited him to his table at Capreae, and at the same time
    got the senate to sentence him to death. But Tiberius saved
    his life, only for the purpose of inflicting upon him severer
    cruelties than death alone. He kept him imprisoned for three
    years, and on the most scanty supply of food. After the lapse
    of three years, he died in his dungeon of starvation, but
    whether it was compulsory or voluntary is unknown.

The last comment is from Tac., _Ann._, vi, 23. The text which
Petrarch must have had before him (and from which he practically
quotes), is Suet., _Rel._ (Teubner), p. 290, ll. 27 f.: “C. Asinius
Gallus Asinii Pollionis filius, cuius etiam Virgilius meminit [in
_Ecl._, 4], diris a Tiberio suppliciis necatur.” Petrarch’s words are
(Vol. III, p. 283): “quem diris ab illo suppliciis enecatum legimus”
(St. Jerome, in Migne, Vol. XXVII, col. 443, and Reiff., p. 86).

[83]. C. Asinius Pollio died in 5 A. D.; his son Gallus died in 33 A.
D. (See preceding note.)

[84]. Quintilian, xii, 1, 22:

    I pass over those who do not give Cicero and Demosthenes due
    credit even in oratory. To be sure, Cicero himself does not
    judge Demosthenes absolutely perfect, saying that now and then
    the latter becomes drowsy. Cicero is similarly judged by both
    Brutus and Calvus, who criticize the structure of his periods
    to his own face; and by the Asinii, father and son, who in many
    places attack the faults of his language even with bitterness.

Pollio’s hostility to Cicero is mentioned also in Sen., _Suas._, vi,
14; 24; 27. But Cicero was not the only author who displeased the
taste of Pollio; among others were Livy (Quint., i, 5, 56; viii, 1,
3), Sallust (Suet., _Gramm._, 10), and Caesar (see n. [86]).

[85]. Sen., _Contr._, iv, _praef._ 3:

    (Pollio) was somewhat more ornate when declaiming than when
    pleading a case, ... and his judgment was so deficient that
    in many instances he himself stood in need of that indulgence
    which it was scarcely possible for others to obtain from him.

[86]. Petrarch’s words are (Vol. III, p. 284): “adversus ipsum
mundi Dominum.” It will be noticed that Fracassetti prints the word
“Dominum” with a capital letter, thus making the phrase equivalent
to the word “God.” In fact he translates the passage “contro lo
stesso Signore della terra” (Vol. 5. p. 167), which conveys the same
thought. Aside from the fact that Pollio died in A. D. 5, when it was
quite too early to speak of Christianity at Rome, we believe that
the line in Petrarch can easily be interpreted otherwise. The key is
furnished by Suet., _Julius_, 56:

    Asinius Pollio thinks that Caesar’s books (on the Gallic War)
    were written with small accuracy and with but little regard
    for the truth. For, he says, Caesar was too ready to believe
    the accounts of deeds performed by others, and published in
    incorrect form even his own deeds, either purposely or because
    they had slipped his memory. Pollio, therefore, was of the
    opinion that Caesar would have rewritten or corrected his work.

And thus it clearly results that it is Caesar who is meant by “ipsum
mundi Dominum.”

[87]. There is a passage in Gellius written so very much after the
heart and spirit of Petrarch, that the temptation to give it here has
been too strong to resist. It is _Noc. Att._, xvii, 1, 1:

    Just as there have been in this world some monsters of men, who
    have scattered broadcast unholy and lying doctrines concerning
    the immortal gods, so have there been men so monstrous and so
    destitute of reason as to have had the presumption to write
    of Cicero that his language was by no means pure, and that it
    gave evidence of a faulty and inconsiderate choice of words.
    Among these detractors are Asinius Gallus and Largus Licinius,
    whose book is even yet current under the unspeakable title of

These words are such as might have been spoken by the venerable old
gentleman of _Fam._, XXIV, 2. (See the first letter to Cicero, n.

[88]. Sen., _Contr._, vii, 4, 6: “Calvus who for a long time carried
on a very unequal struggle against Cicero for supremacy in oratory.”

[89]. Petrarch enlarges upon this point in _Rer. mem._, II, 2, “De
ingenio,” p. 412:

    It does not seem fitting to omit mention of Asinius Pollio,
    who, as Seneca has established and as is apparent to all, must
    be thought to hold the second place of honor between those two
    very eloquent Romans, M. Tullius and T. Livy [Sen., _Ep._,
    100, 9]. Seneca is an authority by no means to be despised.
    Thus far in the present chapter (_Rer. mem._, _loc. cit._) I
    have written of six eloquent men. Seneca chooses none of these
    except Tullius, and maintains that there are three men foremost
    in eloquence--three whom in a certain letter of his he seems to
    prefer to all others. The second place among these he assigns
    to Pollio, whose style he pronounces different from that of
    Cicero, and (to use his own words) ‘uneven and jolting and one
    that breaks off when you least expect it’ [_Ep._, 100, 7].
    Although no specimens of his eloquence have as yet fallen into
    my hands, and although his name has already become famous and
    has already spread abroad unaided, still it did not appear just
    to me (when undertaking to write on the subject of eloquence)
    to pass his name in silence--the more so that I had already
    spoken of others inferior to him. And so it has pleased me to
    place him after Caesar Augustus, under whom he flourished. I
    shall add this only: that many sang the praises of Pollio; but
    that his name was especially honored by the Muse of Mantua. But
    I must now retrace my steps somewhat.

[90]. This is making it unnecessarily strong. Cicero’s statements
are more guarded, and his criticisms are milder, than one would be
led to suppose from the language of Petrarch. In the _Brutus_, where
Cicero speaks of Calvus at great length, his language is reserved. In
sec. 279 he says:

    “I must first, however, do justice to the memory of two
    promising youths, who, if they had lived to a riper age, would
    have acquired the highest reputation for their eloquence.” [In
    280:] “You mean, I suppose,” said Brutus, “Gaius Curio and
    Gaius Licinius Calvus.” “The very same,” replied I.... [283:]
    But let us return to Calvus, whom we have just mentioned, an
    orator who had received more literary improvements than Curio,
    and had a more accurate and delicate manner of speaking, which
    he conducted with great taste and elegance; but (by being too
    minute and nice a critic upon himself) while he was laboring
    to correct and refine his language, he suffered all the force
    and spirit of it to evaporate. In short, it was so exquisitely
    polished, as to charm the eye of every skilful observer; but
    it was little noticed by the common people in a crowded forum,
    which is the proper theater of eloquence. (Translation of E.
    Jones, in the volume translated and edited by J. S. Watson.)

It must be noticed, however, that these passages were written after
the death of Calvus; but we are compelled to judge from these, since
none of the correspondence carried on between Cicero and Calvus on
the subject of eloquence is now extant (cf. Cic., _ad Fam._, XV, 21,
4, with which, however, Petrarch was unacquainted).

[91]. Pliny, _N. H._, vii, 24, and St. Jerome, _Chron., a. Abr._,
2027 (Migne, Vol. XXVII, coll. 441, 442, and Reiff., p. 83). From the
similarity of expressions, it again results that St. Jerome was the
direct source; for in Pliny there is no word alluding to the period
of two years.


(_Fam._, XXIV, 10)

O thou whom the Italian world hails as prince of the lyric song, to
whom the Lesbian muse entrusted her lyre with its harmonious strings;
O thou whom the Tyrrhenian Sea stole from the Adriatic, and Etruria
from Apulia, and whom the Tiber claimed as its own, heeding not the
cries of the Aufidus, nor spurning thy obscure and humble origin;
sweet is it now to follow thee through secluded woodlands, to gaze
upon the spring water bubbling up in the dimly lighted dales, to
admire the purple hills and the verdant meadows, the cool lakes and
the dewy grottos.[93]

It is sweet to go with thee, whether thou dost propitiate Faunus
with his roaming flocks; or eagerly hasten to visit the impetuous
and fiery Bromius; or perform the secret rites of the golden goddess
related to the ivy-crowned Bacchus; or sing of Venus ever in need
of both. ’Tis a joy to accompany thee when thou singest of the
playful Nymphs and nimble Satyrs and of the Graces with their rosy,
naked bodies; or when thou dost sing the name and labors of the
indomitable Hercules; or of the helmeted Mars, another offspring
of incestuous Jove. ’Tis joyful to hear thee sing of the Aegis of
Minerva, spreading terror far and wide with its Gorgon-head; or of
the children of Leda, who sink beneath the waves and are the kind,
protecting constellation of mariners; or of Mercury, the illustrious
inventor of the lyre. How pleasing is it, when thou dost strike the
praises of golden-haired Apollo, and dost bathe his glorious locks
in the waters of the Xanthus; to hearken when thou dost extol his
sister, distinguished by the quiver and striking terror to the hearts
of the forest denizens, and when thou dost disclose the sacred dances
of the Pierides.[94]

Thou dost chisel out the characters of the ancient heroes as though
in material more lasting than marble. If thou but befriendest one,
thou dost pen in his behalf fresh words of everlasting and enduring
praise, such as time cannot erase. The spiritual spark of poets is
of itself sufficient, when kindled by favorable impulses, to create
undying pictures of men. It is due to these pen pictures that we
see, as though yet alive, those demigods Drusus and Scipio and the
rest through whose agency far-renowned Rome imposed her yoke upon
subjugated races. Among these heroes, like a sun gleaming with living
light, there shines forth pre-eminently the race of the Caesars.[95]

Be thou my leader, for I am eager to hear thee sing these strains.
Take me whither thou wilt. Lead me over the broad expanse of the sea
dotted with sails; to the cloud-encompassed peaks of mountains. Take
me from the channel of the flowing Tiber to where the Anio with its
banks cuts its way through the fields--a region pleasing to thee
formerly, when thou wert still of the living, and where I, musing, am
weaving this chaplet for thee, O Flaccus, our glory. Lead me whither
thou wilt: through forbidding forest darknesses, to the cold Algidus,
to the warm waters of Baiae, the Sabine Lake, the fields strewn with
flowers, and to Soracte’s peak white with snows. Bear me with thee to
Brundisium by the devious by-paths. I shall weary not; I shall gladly
guide my slow footsteps in the company of such bards. Neither time
nor tide will swerve me from my purpose. I shall march with equal
vigor, if mother Earth be great with crops yet unharvested, or the
dew be dried by the scorching rays of the sun, or the branches bend
beneath their weight of fruit, or the earth be stiff and slow with
cold. Under thy leadership I shall visit the shores of the Cyclades,
the roaring waves of Thracian Bosporus, the lonely deserts of torrid
Lybia, and the cold, stormy regions of far-off Caucasus.[96]

Wherever thou goest, whatever thou doest, pleases me. I am pleased
when thou dost so carefully rouse thy faithful friends by giving
virtue its due reward; when thou rendest vice with gnashing teeth,
and when, smiling, thou dost artfully peck at folly. I am pleased
when, singing sweetly, thou fillest thy song with tender words of
love; when with sharp and vigorous pen thou upbraidest the riotous
living of the old wanton; or when thou dost arraign the guilty city
and dost accurse the drawn swords and savage frenzy of the Quirites.
I rejoice when Maecenas is the burden of thy song--throughout thy
work the first and last; when thou dost criticise the poets of the
older school and dost disdain to tread in their footsteps; when thou
pourest into the ears of magnanimous Caesar praises of his newly
won honors. I am glad when, in one of thy poems, thou explainest to
Florus thy reasons for declining to write any more satires or lyrics;
when thou describest to Fuscus the joys of a country life and the
evils of a turbulent city, and explainest to him why the warlike
steed is the servant of man; glad, when thou teachest Crispus the
true use of wealth. I am pleased when thou dost tear Vergil away from
his unending grief and gently dost urge him to enjoy some relaxation
and a few moments of pleasure at the coming of spring; when thou
admonishest Hirpinus of the flight of time. I am pleased when thou
remindest Torquatus and, in a similar ode, Postumus of the fleeting
days and nights; when thou writest of old age stealthily creeping
upon us all with noiseless tread, of the shortness of life which is
gone even as we write, or of death which hastens after us with flying

Who would not enraptured listen when thou assignest Augustus (though
still alive) to a place among the stars? or when, in accoutering
Mars, thou declarest the inadequacy of iron and hast recourse to
adamant? or when, as a conqueror, thou drivest along the Sacred Way
and Hill, dragging bands of foreign princes bound to the triumphal
chariots with fetters of gold, a victorious pomp which, feared
and detested by a certain proud queen, caused her to welcome the
inexorable sting of the asp? Who would not lend thee a willing ear,
when thou recountest how the laws of hospitality were dishonored by
the treacherous shepherd of Phrygia, and how from the quieted waves
there came to Paris the threatening prophecy of Nereus? or how Danae
is deceived by the shower of gold? or how the royal maiden, in spite
of her grievous laments, is borne away on the back of the horned

Whether happy or alarmed, whether sad or angered, under any and all
conditions thou dost give pleasure: either when thou frettest the
anxious lover with manifold suspicions; or hurlest just imprecations
on the snake-haired, poisonous hags and on the vulgar herd; when,
free from cares, thou singest of Lalage; or when alone and with
unruffled brow thou dost put to flight that desperate wolf; or when
thou escapest the fall of the ill-omened tree, and the waves which
had been lashed to fury by Aeolian winds.[99]

When I saw thee reclining upon the fresh turf, hearkening to the
bubbling of the springs and to the songs of the birds, when I saw
thee plucking the flowerets from the matted field, weaving the
vinesprigs with the pliant osiers, touching the lyre with gentle
fingers, changing the measures with splendid mastery, and soothing
heaven itself with thy varied song--when I saw all this my eager mind
suddenly became the prey of a noble desire, which spared me not till
I had followed thee through all the recesses of the heaving sea, over
cliffs and crags, ’mid the perils of sea and land. On the remotest
confines of India I saw arise the gleaming steeds of the sun, and
then did I behold them sink in the Western Ocean. In thy company
I have roamed across the regions of the north wind and across the
regions of the south wind. And now, whether thou leadest me to the
Islands of the Blessed, or draggest me to wave-resounding Antium, or
takest me to the citadels of Romulus, I shall follow thee with most
eager mind, so happily am I drawn captive by the chords of thy lyre,
so soothing is to me the bitter sweetness of thy pen.[100]


[92]. This letter (as also the following one to Vergil) is written
in verse, and is translated into verse by Fracassetti, who assigns
to it the date 1337 or 1350. The chances are in favor of the later
date; for Petrarch himself says (in the prefatory letter to Socrates,
Vol. I, p. 25) that the letter he addressed to Cicero (_Fam._,
XXIV, 3, dated 1345) served as a precedent for the other letters to
the classical authors. The letters to Horace and to Vergil really
belong to the _Epistolae Poeticae_, the collection of which was
dedicated to Barbato da Sulmona (_Fam._, _praefatio_, I, pp. 15, 16,
and _Fam._, XXII, 3). Their presence here, then, must be due to the

A mere glance at the letter will reveal to the reader Petrarch’s
intimate knowledge of the complete works of Horace. Fracassetti
says in this regard (Vol. 5, p. 177) that he did not trace the
many allusions to their sources, because such labor would have
proved utterly useless to one already acquainted with the works of
Horace, and would have been of very doubtful assistance to one who
did not possess such knowledge. The nature of this study, however,
demands the presence of the following notes. They will not be read,
of course. They are given merely for the sake of reference and of

One word more. The allusions are so numerous that it has been thought
best to give at the end of each paragraph the references to all the
allusions contained therein. To facilitate identification, each
reference is introduced by a caption of one or more words.

[93]. “secluded woodlands,” _Carm._, i, 17, 17; _Epod._, ii, 11.

[94]. “Faunus,” _Carm._, i, 17; iii, 18; “Bromius,” _ibid._, ii, 19;
iii, 25; “secret rites,” _ibid._, iii, 2; “ivy-crowned,” _ibid._,
iii, 25, 20; iv, 8, 33; “in need of both,” _ibid._, i, 18, 6; 32, 9;
iii, 21, 21; cf. Terence, _Eun._, iv, 5, 6; “Nymphs,” _Carm._, i, 4;
“Satyrs,” _ibid._, i, 1, 31; “naked bodies,” _ibid._, iii, 19, 17;
iv, 7, 6; “Hercules,” _ibid._, i, 12, 25; iv, 5, 36; 8, 30; “Mars,”
_ibid._, i, 2, 36; “Aegis,” _ibid._, i, 15, 11; iii, 4, 57; “Leda,”
_ibid._, i, 12, 25; “constellation,” _ibid._, i, 12, 27, 28; iii, 29,
64; iv, 8, 31; “lyre,” _ibid._, i, 10, 6; “Xanthus,” _ibid._, iv, 6,
26; “quiver,” _ibid._, iii, 4, 72; “terror,” _ibid._, i, 12, 22.

[95]. “Drusus,” _Carm._, iv, 4, 18; 14, 10; “Scipio,” _Sat._, ii, 1,
17 and 72; “shines forth,” _Carm._, i, 12, 46-48.

[96]. “glory,” _Carm._, i, 1, 2; “Algidus,” _ibid._, i, 21, 6; “warm
waters,” _Epist._, i, 15, 5; “Sabine lake,” _Carm._, iv, 1, 19;
“Soracte,” _ibid._, i, 9, 1 and 2; “Brundisium,” _Sat._, i, 5; “slow
with cold,” cf. _Carm._, iii, 23, 5-8; iv, 7, 9-12; “Cyclades,”
_Carm._, i, 14, 20; iii, 28, 14; “Bosporus,” _ibid._, ii, 20, 14;
iii, 4, 30; “Lybia,” _ibid._, i, 22, 5 and 16; ii, 6, 3 and 4;
“Caucasus,” _ibid._, i, 22, 7; _Epod._, i, 12.

[97]. “wanton,” _Carm._, i, 25; iii, 15; iv, 13; “drawn swords,”
_Epod._, 7 and 16; “school,” _Sat._, i, 4 and 10; “footsteps,”
_Epist._, i, 19, 21-25; cf. _Carm._, iii, 30, 13; “honors,” _Carm._,
iii, 25, 7, 8; “Florus,” _Epist._, ii, 2; “Fuscus,” _Epist._, i, 10;
“steed,” _Epist._, i, 10, 34-41; “Crispus,” _Carm._, ii, 2; “Vergil,”
_ibid._, i, 24; “pleasure,” _ibid._, iv, 12; “Hirpinus,” _ibid._,
ii, 11; “Torquatus,” _ibid._, iv, 7; “Postumus,” _ibid._, ii, 14:
“fleeting days,” _ibid._, iv, 13, 16; cf. iii, 28, 6; “shortness of
life,” _ibid._, iv, 13, 22; _Sat._, ii, 6, 97; _Epist._, ii, 1, 144;
“as we write,” _Carm._, i, 11, 7; “flying feet,” _ibid._, iii, 2,
14; _Sat._, ii, 1, 58.

[98]. “Augustus,” _Carm._, iii, 3, 11, 12; 25, 6; “adamant,” _ibid._,
i, 6, 13; “sacred hill,” _ibid._, iv, 2, 35; “fetters,” _Epod._,
vii, 8; “detested,” _Carm._, i, 37, 32; “asp,” _ibid._, i, 37, 28;
“shepherd,” _ibid._, i, 15, 1, 2; “quieted waves,” _ibid._, i, 15,
3; “prophecy,” _ibid._, i, 15, 5; “Danae,” _ibid._, iii, 16; “royal
maiden,” _ibid._, iii, 27, 25 ff.

[99]. “hags,” _Epod._, v; “herd,” _Carm._, ii, 16, 40; iii, 1, 1;
“Lalage and wolf,” _ibid._, i, 22; “tree,” _ibid._, ii, 13; cf. ii,
17, 27; iii, 4, 27; 8, 8.

[100]. “fresh turf,” _Carm._, i, 1, 21; ii, 3, 6; _Epod._, ii, 23;
“springs,” _Carm._, i, 1, 22; _Epod._, ii, 25 and 27; “birds,”
_ibid._, ii, 26; “flowerets,” _ibid._, 19; “field,” _ibid._, 24;
“lyre,” _Carm._, i, 1, 34; “India,” _Epist._, i, 1, 45; cf. _Carm._,
i, 31, 6; iii, 24, 2; “gleaming steeds,” _Carm. Saec._ 9; “western
Ocean,” _Carm._, i, 31, 14; _Epod._, i, 13; “Islands of the Blessed,”
_Carm._, iv, 8, 27; _Epod._, xvi, 42; “Antium,” _Carm._, i, 35;
“citadels,” _ibid._, ii, 6, 22; _Carm. Saec._, 65; _Carm._, i, 2, 3.


(_Fam._, XXIV, 11)

O illustrious Maro, bright luminary of eloquence and second hope
of the Latian tongue,[101] fortunate Mantua rejoices in so great a
son as thou, rejoices in having brought to light an ornament to the
Roman name that will continue to adorn it throughout the centuries.
What region of earth or what circle of Avernus arrests thee now?
Does a swarthy Apollo play for thee on a harsh and grating lyre,
and do the sable sisters now inspire thy verses? Dost thou soothe
the Elysian groves with thy tender song, or dost thou dwell upon
a Tartarean Helicon? And, O fairest of bards, does Homer, who was
of one mind with thee, roam about in thy company? Orpheus and the
other poets wander alone o’er the meadows, singing the praises of
Phoebus--all except those whom a self-inflicted and violent death,
or servile homage to a cruel lord has banished to other regions.
Among them there is no place for Lucan, whom a cruel emperor drove
to a wished-for death. His fear of torture and his abhorrence of a
shameful death proved victorious, and he ordered the physician to
open his veins.[102] A similar death took off Lucretius,[103] whose
savage fury (they say) compels him to dwell in far other regions than
thou, Vergil.

And so, who are thy present companions? What life dost thou live?
These are the questions I should gladly hear thee answer. And how
near the truth were thy earthly dreams and imaginings? Hast thou been
welcomed by the wandering Aeneas, and hast thou passed through the
ivory portal by which he found exit?[104] Or, rather, dost thou dwell
in that quiet region of heaven which receives the blessed, where the
stars smile benignly upon the peaceful shades of the illustrious?
Wert thou received thither after the conquest of the Stygian abodes
and the plundering of the Tartarean regions, on the arrival of that
Highest King who, victorious in the great struggle, crossed the
unholy threshold with pierced feet, and, irresistible, beat down the
unyielding bars of hell with His pierced hands, and hurled its gates
from their horrid-sounding hinges? All this should I like to learn
from thee.

If the shade of anyone lately of this world of ours should perchance
visit thee in the silent world, receive from him news which I have
intrusted to him. Learn from him the present condition of three
cities dear to thee, and the treatment which has been accorded to thy
three works.

Parthenope is in grief. Widowed, she mourns the death of King
Robert. One day has robbed her of the fruits of many years, and
now her people are held in suspense and are threatened with an
uncertain fate.[105] The sins of the few are visited upon an innocent
population. Mantua, best of cities, is ceaselessly tossed by the
disturbances of her neighbors; but, shielding herself behind her
great-souled leaders,[106] she scorns to submit her unconquered head
to the yoke, rejoicing in her own compatriot lords and ignorant of
the rule of the stranger. It is in this city that I have composed
what thou art now reading. It is here that I have found the friendly
repose of thy rural fields. I constantly wonder by what path thou
wert wont to seek the unfrequented glades in thy strolls, in what
fields wert wont to roam, what streams to visit, or what recess
in the curving shores of the lake, what shady groves and forest
fastnesses. Constantly I wonder where it was that thou didst rest
upon the sloping sward, or that, reclining in thy moments of
fatigue, thou didst press with thy elbow upon the grassy turf or upon
the marge of a charming spring. Such thoughts as these, O Vergil,
bring thee vividly before my eyes.

Thou hast heard the fortune of thy native city, hast heard also
what degree of peace hovers about thy grave. But what is taking
place in Rome, our common mother--this, O Vergil, pray do not seek
to know.[107] Believe me, ’tis better not to know. Lend thine ear,
therefore, to more pleasing news and learn of the great success
of thy works. Learn that Tityrus, though older, continues to blow
upon the slender reed-pipe; that thy small holding is still joyful
with its crops, thanks to thy fourfold work; that Aeneas lives,
and gives pleasure with his song throughout the world. Yea, Aeneas
lives, notwithstanding that death, envious of thy great and noble
beginnings, overtook thee as thou wert so earnestly endeavoring to
raise him to the skies. The Fates were on the point of fastening
their clutches upon the unhappy Aeneas. Condemned by thine own lips,
he was about to depart from us when once again the mercy of Augustus
snatched him from these second flames, him who seemed destined to
be destroyed by fire.[108] Augustus was not moved by the dejected
spirits of his dying friend, and justly will he be praised by all
succeeding generations for having disregarded thy last wishes.
Farewell forever, O beloved one; and pray greet in my behalf thy
elders, Homer and the Ascraean.


[101]. An allusion by Petrarch to the statement which he himself
makes in the second letter to Cicero, _Fam._, XXIV, 4. (Consult n.
[17] of that letter.)

[102]. St. Jerome, _Chron._, (Migne, Vol. XXVII, coll. 453, 454):
“M. Annaeus Lucan of Cordova, a poet, having been detected as
participating in the conspiracy of Piso, held out his arm to the
physician that his veins might be opened.” This statement was taken
from Suetonius (_Rel._, p. 299, ll. 10-12 [Teubner]), who gives
the further detail that Lucan committed suicide at the close of a
splendid banquet--“epulatusque largiter” (_op. cit._, p. 300, ll.
3, 4; Reifferscheid, _Rel._, p. 52, ll. 1, 2). The statement of the
commentator Vacca on the subject--“venas sibi praecidit” (Reiff.,
_op. cit._, p. 78, l. 6)--cannot be considered the source of
Petrarch’s “arterias medico dedit ille cruento” (Vol. III, p. 291, l.
2), because the word “medicus” does not appear therein, as it does in
the passage cited from St. Jerome (Suetonius).

[103]. Again St. Jerome is the authority. _Chron._, (Migne, Vol.
XXVII, coll. 425, 426): “Titus Lucretius the poet is born, who in
later years went mad because of a love philter. And although in
the intervals of lucidity he composed several books (which Cicero
afterward corrected), he committed suicide in the forty-fourth year
of his age.”

[104]. _Aeneid_, vi, 898, and Conington’s translation, p. 215:

    Conversing still, the sire attends
      The travellers on their road,
    And through the ivory portal sends
      From forth the unseen abode.

[105]. Queen Joanna (the granddaughter and successor of King Robert,
who died January 19, 1343) had been espoused while still a child
to her cousin Andrew. The latter’s manners were rough and uncouth
and “more worthy of his native country, than of that polished court
wherein he had been bred.” After being tolerated for some time, he
was one night seized, strangled, and thrown out of a window of the
Castle of Aversa (September 18, 1345). Queen Joanna was at once
accused of having been privy to the crime, although there was no
actual proof to that effect. To avenge Andrew’s death, his brother,
Louis I the Great, king of Hungary and Poland, successfully invaded
the kingdom of Naples in the end of 1347. The Black Death obliged
him to return to his own country the following year, whereupon
Queen Joanna returned, and carried on a desultory warfare with
the Hungarian party in Naples. In 1350 King Louis made a second
expedition against Naples, but he soon found it more difficult to
retain the kingdom than it had been to conquer it. And since affairs
at home required his presence, he agreed to a treaty in 1351 and
left Naples. The city was soon recovered by Queen Joanna (in 1352)
whose reign continued for many years, undisturbed by any attack of a
foreign enemy (Hallam, Vol. I, pp. 347, 348, and Lodge, _The Close of
the Middle Ages_, pp. 152, 153). The period of suspense mentioned by
Petrarch must, therefore, have been from the assassination of King
Andrew (1345) to the treaty agreed upon in 1351, which accords fully
with the date 1349 assigned to this letter by Fracassetti (Vol. 5, p.

[106]. The family of the Gonzaga. After the murder of Rinaldo
Buonacolsi (surnamed Passerino) and after the defeat of his followers
(1328), Luigi Gonzaga became captain-general of Mantua. This dignity
was confirmed as a hereditary title by Louis IV of Bavaria, who in
1329 nominated him imperial vicar. Luigi thus became Louis I, the
founder of a new ducal house which furnished the lords of Mantua
uninterruptedly for four centuries. The direct line became extinct in

In 1348 the sons of Louis I of Mantua, Filippino and Guido, defeated
the allied forces of the Visconti, Scaligeri, and Estensi, under
the command of Lucchino Visconti at Borgoforte, a village fourteen
kilometers south of Mantua, and beat back the Milanese a second time
in 1357. The praise bestowed by Petrarch must have been due to the
victory won by the Gonzaga in 1348. And a truly remarkable victory it
was, considering the great success which attended the efforts of the
Visconti to bring the ruling houses of Italy under the power of the
Viper (cf. J. A. Symonds, _The Age of the Despots_ [London 1897], pp.
113, 114).

[107]. Petrarch was most sadly disappointed in Rienzo’s failure and
the consequent anarchy at Rome.

    Rome was again agitated by the bloody feuds of the barons, who
    detested each other and despised the commons; their hostile
    fortresses, both in town and country, again rose and were again
    demolished; and the peaceful citizens, a flock of sheep, were
    devoured, says the Florentine historian, by these rapacious
    wolves. But, when their pride and avarice had exhausted the
    patience of the Romans, a confraternity of the Virgin Mary
    protected or avenged the republic; the bell of the Capitol was
    again tolled, the nobles in arms trembled in the presence of
    an unarmed multitude; and of the two senators, Colonna escaped
    from the window of the palace, and Ursini was stoned at the
    foot of the altar (Gibbon, Vol. VII, p. 276).

And with equal eloquence, Gregorovius exclaims (Vol. VI, Pt. I, pp.
318, 319):

    The unlucky fugitive (Rienzo), however, cherished one
    satisfaction; this was the state of wild anarchy to which
    the city had reverted, after having enjoyed peace and order
    under his government. Disunion prevailed among both people and
    nobility; family wars both within and without; robbery and
    crime in every street.

[108]. The story of Vergil’s dying wish to burn the _Aeneid_ is
well known. Petrarch learned it from Donatus. Also the statement
concerning the command of Augustus is to be found in Donatus
(_Vita Verg._, XV, 56, p. 63 R), who cites the verses by Sulpicius
containing the allusion to the rescue of the _Aeneid_ from these
“second flames” (_op. cit._, 57, p. 63 R: “et paene est alio Troia
cremata rogo.” Compare Baehrens, _Poetae latini minores_, Vol. IV, p.
182, No. 184, where the lines are ascribed to Servius Varius).

Petrarch, moreover, knew the story of the rescue also from the famous
poem “Ergone supremis,” to which he makes two distinct references:
one in _Epistolae Poeticae_, II, 3, last 2 verses, _Opera_, III, p.
90 (P. de Nolhac, I, p. 125, n. 1, and Sabbadini, _Rend. del R. Ist.
Lomb._, [1906], p. 197); the other in a marginal note to Servius’
life of Vergil, at the words “hac lege iussit emendare,” where
Petrarch says, “Super hoc elegantissimo carmine se excusans.” This
is a clear reference to the poem “Ergone supremis” (Sabbadini, _op.
cit._, p. 194).

This oft-mentioned poem is cited in the interpolated version of
Donatus’ life of Vergil (XV, 58, p. 63 R). But it has already been
proved doubtful whether Petrarch was acquainted with this version.
(See above, second letter to Cicero, n. [17].) Hence it is more
probable that Petrarch knew the “Ergone supremis” directly from the
_Anthologia_ (Baehrens, _op. cit._, Vol. IV, p. 179, No. 183, and
Sabbadini, _op. cit._, p. 198).

Petrarch knew of two additional sources for the story. He refers
to Macrobius (I, 24, 6), in a marginal note to Servius’ “praecepit
incendi. Augustus vero,” saying, “de hoc Macrobio” (Sabbadini, _op.
cit._, p. 193). And lastly, though Petrarch nowhere makes direct
reference to it, he may have used also Pliny, _N. H._, vii, 30, 31.

Summary of sources in order of importance: Anthologia Latina,
Macrobius, Donatus.


(_Fam._, XXIV, 12)

I have long desired to address thee in writing, and would have done
so without hesitation if I had had a ready command of thy tongue.
But alas! Fortune was unkind to me in my study of Greek.[109] Thou,
on the other hand, seemest to have forgotten the Latin which it was
formerly customary for our authors to bring to thy assistance, but
which their descendants have failed to place at thy disposal.[110]
And so, excluded from the one and the other means of communication, I
kept my peace.

One man has once again restored thee to our age as a Latin.[111] Thy
Penelope did not longer nor more anxiously await her Ulysses than I
thee. My hopes, indeed, had been deserting me one by one. Excepting
the opening lines of several books of thy poem,[112] wherein I beheld
thee as one sees, from a distance, the doubtful and rapid look of a
wished-for friend, or perhaps, catches a glimpse of his streaming
hair--with this exception, then, no portion of thy works had come
into my hands in Latin translation. Nothing, in fine, warranted the
hope that I might some day behold thee nigh at hand. For that little
book which commonly passes as thine, though it is clearly taken from
thee and is inscribed with thy name, is nevertheless not thine.[113]
Who the author of it may be is not certain. That other person
(to whom I have already referred) will restore thee to us in thy
entirety, if he lives.[114] Indeed, he has already begun his task,
in order that we may derive pleasure not merely from the excellent
contents of thy divine poem, but also from the charms of conversing
with thee. The Greek flavor has recently been enjoyed by me from a
Latin flagon.[115]

This experience brought forcibly home to me the fact that a vigorous
and keen intellect can all things. Cicero was, in many instances,
merely an expounder of thy thoughts; Vergil was even more frequently
a borrower; both, however, were the princes of the Latin speech. And
though Annaeus Seneca assert that Cicero loses all his eloquence when
dabbling in verse and that Vergil’s felicity of expression deserts
him when venturing into the realms of prose,[116] still I maintain
that it is but right that each of them be compared with himself and
not with the other. From such comparison it would clearly result
that each should be considered as having fallen below his own highest
level. Judged by themselves, I insist that I have read verses of
Cicero that are not mere doggerel, and prose letters of Vergil that
are not disagreeable.[117]

I am now experiencing the same emotions in thy case, for thy great
work, too, is a poetical masterpiece. In obedience to the maxim
laid down by St. Jerome (a Latin author of exceptional skill in
languages), I wrote once upon a time that if thou wert to be
translated literally, not merely into Latin prose, but even into
Greek prose, from being most eloquent of poets thou wouldst be made
of none effect.[118] Now, on the contrary, thou dost still retain
thy hidden power to please, though turned into prose, and what is
more, into Latin prose.[119] This fact compels admiration. Whatever,
therefore, may be said of me, let no one marvel that I have addressed
Vergil in verse, but thee in the more tractable and yielding
prose.[120] Him I addressed of my own free will; in thy case, I am
answering a letter received.[121] Furthermore, with Vergil I employed
the idiom which we possessed in common; with thee I have adopted,
not thy ancient language, but a certain new speech in which the
letter I received was couched, a speech which I use daily, but which
is not, I suppose, the one to which thou art accustomed.

But after all, why should I dignify my talk with both of you by
giving it the name conversation? Our very best must appear to you
mere prattle and chattering. Ye are unapproachable; ye are more than
mortal, and your heads pierce the clouds. Yet it is with me as with a
babe: I love to babble with those who feed me, even though they are
skilled masters of speech. But enough on the subject of style. I now
come to the contents of thy letter.

Thou dost complain of several things, and as a matter of fact thou
couldst with almost perfect justice complain of everything. What in
this world, pray, can escape just complaint? This exception, however,
must be borne in mind: the moment laments begin to be ineffectual,
they somehow cease to be justifiable. Thy grievances, indeed, do not
lack a just cause, but they are without their desired effect, which
is that, while condemning the past, they should provide some remedy
for the present and make some provision for the future. Considering,
however, that the expression of our grievances does in truth relieve
the burden of our sorrow for the time being, clamoring cannot be said
to be altogether of no avail. At present, O great one, thy soul is
overburdened with grief. Thy long letter is one connected series of
complaints, and yet I would it had been longer. Only tediousness and
lack of interest can cause anything to seem long.

Permit me, now, to touch briefly upon the various details. What
thou didst write of thy teachers filled me, who am so greedy for
knowledge and learning, with boundless and incredible joy. Hitherto,
I confess, they were absolutely unknown to me; but hereafter, thanks
to their renowned disciple, they will be honored and worshiped by
me. Thy letter touches upon matters entirely new to us: on the
origin of poetry, which thou dost trace to its most ancient sources;
on the earliest followers of the Muses, among whom, in addition to
the well-known dwellers upon Helicon, thou dost class Cadmus son
of Agenor, and a certain Hercules, whether Alcides or not appears
doubtful. I am glad to receive knowledge concerning the city of thy
birth; for we had cloudy and hazy views thereupon, and (I see) even
you Greeks were none too clear of the subject.[122] Furthermore,
thou dost describe thy pilgrimages undertaken in search of knowledge
into Phoenicia and Egypt whither, several centuries afterward, the
illustrious philosophers Pythagoras and Plato journeyed, and he who
gave laws to the Athenians and who later in life became a devotee of
the Pierides, the learned and venerable Solon. During life he was a
great admirer of thine, and after death he must have become thy very
intimate friend. Finally, thou dost inform us of the number of thy
books, many of which were unknown even to the Italians, thy nearest
neighbors. As to these barbarians by whom we are encircled--and I
would that we were cut off from them, not merely by the lofty Alps,
but indeed by the whole expanse of the broad ocean--as to these
barbarians, they have not heard of thy name even, much less of the
number of thy books. Let this serve as a proof unto men of how
evanescent a dream is fame, for which we toil so breathlessly.

Thou didst add a very sad and bitter touch to so much that was truly
pleasing, when thou didst mention the loss of those same books. Oh
unhappy me, thrice unhappy! How many, many things are lost! Nay, all
things perish--all that our own blind activity accomplishes ’neath
the course of the ever-returning sun. Vain are the labors and cares
of men! Time flies, and, short as it is, we waste it. Oh, the vanity
and pride of men over the nothingness that we are and do and hope
for! Who will now place confidence in a dim ray of light? The supreme
Sun of eloquence has himself suffered eclipse. Who will now dare to
mourn the partial loss of his own works? Who will now dare cherish
the hope that any fruit of his labors will endure forever?

The fruits of Homer’s sleepless toil have perished in large measure.
Not ours the fault, for no one can lose that which he does not
possess. The Greeks themselves are to blame. That they might not
yield the palm to us in any phase of life whatsoever, they have
exceeded even our sloth and neglect in the domain of letters, and
have suffered themselves to lose many of Homer’s books, which were to
them as so many rays of glory. Such blindness makes them unworthy of
the boast that they once produced so luminous a star.

Again, I was deeply stirred by what thou didst relate concerning thy
end. Even among us the accepted story of thy death was widespread.
I myself gave it currency on occasion, adhering to the common
version, ’tis true, but yet adding to it a note of uncertainty.[123]
For it gave me pleasure, and (with thy kind leave) it still
gives me pleasure, to entertain a better opinion of thee and of
Sophocles.[124] I am unwilling to believe that grief and joy--those
most disturbing passions of the mind--could have held such powerful
sway over such divine intellects. Similarly, if we are to believe
common hearsay, Philemon died of laughter. But we have at last become
acquainted with a more serious and more credible version: that his
death followed a period of unconsciousness due, not to excessive
laughter (as report would have it), but to the wasting and sapping
effects of a most profound meditation.[125]

But to return to thee alone and to thy death--how violent and how
lengthy are thy lamentations! Calm thyself, I beg of thee. Thou wilt
succeed, I am sure, if thou wilt banish thy passions and return to
thy proper self. Much dost thou complain of thy imitators, much of
those who scoffed at and reviled thee. Just complaints these, if,
indeed, thou wert the only one to suffer such treatment; if scoffing
and reviling were vices unknown to man, instead of their being (as
they surely are,) well-worn and common traits. Hence it is that thou
must fain bow to the inevitable--thou who art the foremost of this
class, I grant thee, but yet not a class in thyself.

What, in truth, am I to say on this subject? When thou didst behold
thyself soaring so high on the wings of fancy, thou shouldst have
foreseen that thou wouldst never lack imitators. Surely it must be
gratifying to thee that many should wish to resemble thee. Very few,
however, find it possible. Forsooth, why shouldst thou not rejoice,
conscious as thou art of ever holding the first place? Even I, the
least among men, not only rejoice, but, as if rejoicing were not
sufficient, glory and boast that I am now held in such esteem that
some (if some there be) hope to follow in my footsteps and to fashion
as I have fashioned. Indeed, my joy would be the greater were my
imitators such as ultimately to surpass me. I do not address my vows
to that Apollo of thine; but I pray and beseech my God, the true God
of genius, to grant that, if there be anyone who has deemed me a
worthy pattern to follow, he may overtake me with easy efforts and
indeed outstrip me. I shall consider that I have wrought gloriously
and effectively if I discover among my friends many who are my
equals--and I call them friends because no one will desire to model
himself after me unless he love me. Still more fortunate shall I deem
myself if I recognize superiors among those who, having been content
to follow for a time, later lead the way as conquerors. For if a
father desires that the child of his flesh and blood be greater than
himself, what should the author wish for the child of his intellect?
And since thou canst entertain no fear of a greater or superior, bear
with thy imitators patiently and calmly.

In the books of the _Saturnalia_ there is an unsettled discussion on
the question of superiority between thee and that one of whom thou
dost complain so bitterly, Vergil.[126] There are some among us who
consider the issue a doubtful one; others award the crown to Vergil
without hesitation. I tell thee this, not because I favor or oppose
the one or the other judgment, but that thou mayst know what and how
varying opinions posterity holds of thee.

And here, O best of leaders, my conscience bids me, before proceeding
farther, to undertake the defense of Vergil himself--a soul (as
Flaccus says)[127] the like of which this earth has ne’er produced
more spotless. What thou didst say of his imitating thee is not
merely true, but forms part of common knowledge. Moreover, many other
true things might have been said by thee, but respect (or was it
modesty?) forbade. Thou wilt find all the various points discussed in
order in the _Saturnalia_. There too thou wilt find the sharp retort
of Vergil, who, when charged by his rivals with having stolen verses
from thee, answered that it was a sign of great power to wrest the
club from the hands of Hercules.[128] I am quite certain that thou
wilt detect the veiled pungency of this witticism.

I by no means intend to incriminate him whom I set out to defend, as
so many do. I frankly admit the truth of all thou sayest. Still, I
cannot listen calmly to thy complaint, when thou sayest that though
Vergil is overladen and bedecked with thy spoils he nowhere deigns
to make mention of thy name. Thou dost adduce the opposite case of
Lucan (and with perfect right) who in grateful words acknowledges his
indebtedness to the bard of Smyrna.[129] Let me add further instances
in favor of thy side. Flaccus frequently refers to thee, and always
in noble words; for on one occasion he exalts thee above the
philosophers themselves, and on another he assigns to thee the most
honored seat among the poets.[130] Naso mentions thee, and Juvenal,
and Statius. But why should I rehearse the long list of those who
make mention of thee? Practically not a single one of our authors has
been thus forgetful.

Why then, thou wilt say, should I bear the ingratitude of him alone
who deservedly should have been the most grateful of all? Before
answering, let me heap coals of fire on thy wounded feelings. Do not
by any mischance suppose that Vergil was similarly ungrateful to all.
Know that he mentions--and not once merely--Musaeus and Linus and
Orpheus; and what is more, that he pays the greatest deference to
the poets Hesiod the Ascraean and Theocritus the Syracusan. Finally,
he does not omit mention even of Varus and Gallus and of other
contemporaries--a thing which jealousy would never have permitted,
had he harbored such base feeling.

What now? Do I not seem to have aggravated the causes of that plaint
which I had proposed to lessen or entirely to remove? Yes, if I were
to stop at this point. But thou must hear me out. We must examine all
the circumstances and bring to bear all our reasoning faculties,
especially since we are to sit as judges.

Vergil naturally makes mention of Theocritus in the _Bucolics_,
because he had taken him as his model; and likewise, in the
appropriate place in the _Georgics_, he speaks of Hesiod.[131] And
then thou wilt ask, “Why does he make no mention of me anywhere in
his heroic poem, seeing that he had chosen me as his third model?”
Believe me, Homer; had not wicked death prevented, Vergil would have
given thee due honor, for he was the most gentle and modest of men,
and (as we read) a man of irreproachable life. Others he honored
when the opportunity presented itself and in those places where it
suited his convenience. For thee, to whom he was most heavily in
debt, he was reserving a place, not selected by circumstances, but
destined and marked out after due deliberation. Which place, dost
thou suppose? Which but the most distinguished and conspicuous? The
end of his illustrious poem it was that he had reserved for thee.
There he had destined to hail thee as his leader and in sonorous
lines to exalt thy name to the stars. What place more worthy, I ask,
in which to praise the leader of our journey? Thou hast good cause,
therefore, for mourning the over-early death which cut off Vergil,
and the Italian world shares thy grief; but thou canst have no
grievances against thy friend.

I shall cite a very close and similar example to prove the truth of
my previous remarks. Even as Vergil took thee as his model, so he in
his turn was chosen by Papinius Statius, whom I have mentioned above,
a man renowned not merely for his intellectual powers but also for
the singular charm of his manners. And still he did not acknowledge
the great leader of his genius until the end of his poetical journey.
For, though he had already and in a less conspicuous place declared
himself inferior to Vergil in style, it was only at the close that he
openly and in good faith paid the full debt of his grateful soul to
the author of the _Aeneid_.[132] If, then, death had untimely laid
its hands upon Statius, Vergil also would have been unsung by his
grateful follower, even as thou by him.

I should wish thee to be persuaded that it is as I say. For it is
surely so, unless I am deceived by false signs; and even if it were
otherwise, the more favorable of two opinions is the one to be
preferred when in doubt. All the arguments I have advanced thus far
are, of course, in extenuation of the chief works of Vergil. For if
thou turnest thy attention to the short poems which are called his
earlier works--clearly his first youthful efforts--thou wilt there
find mention of thy name.[133]

It now remains for me to touch lightly upon the minor complaints
scattered here and there throughout the body of thy letter. Thou
grievest that thou hast been mangled and dismembered by thy
imitators. It had needs be so, Homer. No man’s intellect was
sufficiently vigorous to grasp thee whole. Thou dost wax indignant,
moreover, that they should shower abuse upon thee though clothed
in thy spoils.[134] Alas! it is only what thou must expect; no one
can be particularly ungrateful except him who has previously been
the recipient of a great boon. Thy next charge is that, whereas thy
name was held in great honor by the early jurists and physicians, to
their successors it has become a subject of mockery and contempt.
Thou dost not observe how different the later generations are from
the preceding. If they were of a like stamp, they would love and
cherish the same things. Let thy indignation cease, and thy sorrow as
well. On the contrary, take comfort in hoping for the best. To be in
disfavor with the wicked and the ignorant is the first sign of virtue
and intelligence. The radiance of thy genius is so brilliant that
our weak sight cannot endure it. It is with thee as with the sun,
for which it is not reckoned a disgrace but praise most high, that
it conquers the vision of the weak and puts to flight the birds of
night. Among the ancients, and indeed also among men of today--if any
there are in whom there still lives even a small spark of our early
nature--thou must be esteemed not merely a holy philosopher (as thou
thyself sayest[135]) but greater and superior to any philosopher, as
I have said above.[136] Thou dost cover a most beautiful philosophy
with a very charming and transparent veil.

Assuredly thou canst have no concern for the disesteem in which thou
art held by the monstrous men of today. Indeed, it is most earnestly
to be desired that thou shalt continue to displease them, for this is
the first step to glory. The second step is not to have one’s merits
acknowledged. Dismiss therefore, I beg of thee, all care and sorrow,
and return to that deserved seat of honor in the Elysian Fields which
thou didst formerly hold and whence thou sayest thou wert driven by
such trifling absurdities. It is not fitting that the composure of
the sage should be dispelled by the affronts of fools. Otherwise what
would be the result? What would ever put an end to the evil, since
the Hebrew philosopher most verily hath said, “The number of fools is
infinite”?[137] No truer word could have been spoken. Do not all the
streets and homes and public squares attest it?

Thy next grievance is, to my mind, a cause for great joy and for
sincere happiness, though thou seemest to be so enraged by it. Even
sweets taste bitter to him who has a disordered stomach. Thou dost
weep when it had been more appropriate to rejoice. Thou dost weep
because our common friend (whom thou takest to be a Thessalian and
whom I have always thought a Byzantine[138]) has compelled thee to
enter within the walls of my flourishing native city, to live among
strangers or (if thou dost insist) to live the life of an exile. Rest
assured that he has done and is doing so in the greatest good faith
and out of sincerest love for thee. By his labor he has commenced
to endear himself to all who cherish thy name, and who, though few
in number, still do exist. See to it, therefore, that thou dost not
nourish any resentment against that very person to whom we--lovers
all of thee--are giving thanks both in our name and in thine. If
fortune befriend his undertaking, he will restore thee to us and to
the Ausonian Muses, who have so long been seeking to know thee.

Cease wondering that the valley of Fiesole and the banks of the Arno
can boast of but three who are thy friends. It is enough; it is much;
yes, it is more than I had hoped for, to have found three Pierian
spirits in a city so given over to Mammon. But do not despair. The
city is a large and populous one; seek and thou wilt find a fourth.
To these I should add a fifth--for he surely deserves it--him I
mean whose brow was garlanded with the Penean or Alphean laurels.
But I know not how it is that we have been deprived of him by the
Babylon across the Alps. Does it seem to thee nothing wonderful to
encounter five such men at one time and in one city? Seek elsewhere,
and what hast thou? That famous Bologna for which thou dost sigh,
most generous seat of learning as it is, can produce but one, though
thou shouldst search it from end to end. Verona, boasts of two, and
Sulmona of one. Also Mantua might vaunt of one, if his theological
studies did not draw him away from earthly matters; for he has
deserted thy ensigns and has ranged himself beneath those of Ptolemy.
Wonderful to relate, Rome herself, the head and center of all
things, has been drained of such citizens almost to a man. Perugia
did have one who gave great promise of the future, but he neglected
opportunities for developing his better self. He has abandoned not
only Parnassus, but the Apennines and the Alps as well, and is now,
in his old age, roaming about Spain, scratching away at parchments
to earn his livelihood as a scribe. Other cities gave birth to
other friends of thine, but all whom I became acquainted with have
departed from this mortal habitation for that universal and eternal
city.[139] This, then, is what I am leading up to: that thou shouldst
not continue to complain of one who is indeed thy friend, since he
has brought thee to a country boasting of only a few friends and
admirers, it is true, but still of more such than thou wouldst find
today in any other land.

Art thou, perchance, unaware how few scholars there have been at all
times, even in our country? Unless I am mistaken, this same friend
of ours is at this time the only scholar in all Greece. My late
teacher was a second.[140] But alas! he died after having raised
within me most pleasing hopes of ultimate success, leaving me at
the mere threshold of such studies. Indeed, even before his death he
had left me to shift for myself; for, having regard for his rather
than for my own advantage, I had added my influence to procure his
elevation to a bishopric. Therefore, Homer, bear up with this small
handful of followers and grant to an enfeebled and declining age
the same indulgence which thou wouldst have granted to a strong and
flourishing one.

Formerly there were a few who highly valued the ennobling study of
letters. Today their number is sadly diminished, and I predict that
shortly they will have disappeared entirely.[141] It is best to
abide with these few as eagerly as may be, and pray do not for one
instant harbor the thought of exchanging our stream for any larger
channel. Thou art no mere mariner, nor fisherman; nay, if the report
be true (and I would it were false) thy intercourse with that tribe
was none too auspicious.[142] The small Castalian fount and the low
and humble Helicon once did give thee pleasure. May our Arno and our
hills be as fortunate, where noble intellects abound like the gushing
waters of the hills and where the sweetly singing nightingales
build their nests. These are few indeed, I confess; but to repeat,
if thou surveyest the land far and near, they will appear relatively
many. Outside of these few singers what dost thou hope to find in
our population except fullers, weavers, and smiths? Not to mention
impostors, whom wilt thou come upon except publicans, thieves of
various kinds, thousands of frauds and cheats, hostile factions that
never hesitate to resort to deceitful means, the anxious avaricious
and their vain struggles, and the rank scum that pursues the
mechanical trades? Among such as these thou must needs endure all
scoffing with unruffled brow, as an eagle among the night-owls, as
a lion among apes. In their presence thou must repeat what Ennius,
greatly thy inferior, once said: “I flit about in life on the lips
of (learned) men.”[143] Let the lips of the untaught continue to
disclose their ignorance and utter vain gossip. Let them remain in
ignorance of thee and thy works, or, knowing, let them revile. Praise
from such lips would be blasphemy indeed.

I come now to myself, so that, being the least in intellect and in
years, I may also form the last topic of my letter. In thy adversity
thou dost beg me to come to thy aid. Oh, cruel and inexorable fate!
In succoring so great a man as thou I could forever boast of a better
claim to glory than any I have yet attained or hope to attain. I call
Christ to witness--a God to thee unknown--that there is absolutely
nothing which I can offer for thy relief except affectionate, tender
pity and loyal advice. What assistance, indeed, can be received from
one who can do nothing for himself? Hast thou not heard that even
thy followers were reviled out of hatred for thy name, and that they
were judged insane by an assembly of insane? If this could happen in
thine own age and in Athens, most cultured of cities, what dost thou
suppose will be the case today with other poets in cities entirely
devoted to the pursuit of pleasure? I am one of those at whom the
vulgar and the ignorant aim their shafts. I am astonished and wonder
why it is so. If only I had given cause for some justifiable hatred!
But it matters not how just the cause may or may not have been; the
reality of their hatred is undeniable. And is it on my bosom, then,
that thou wouldst seek refuge? Oh, insensate turn of fortune’s wheel!
No palace could be sufficiently spacious and resplendent for thee,
Homer, if great intellects were to strive for such material honors
as fortune can bestow. But not so: genius spurns the turrets and
castles of the ignorant, and delights in the lonely and lowly hut.
For my part, although I do not consider myself worthy of so great
a guest, I have already harbored thee at my home both in Greek and
(as far as it was possible) in Latin.[144] I trust to have thee
entire before long, provided thy Thessalian will complete what he
has begun.[145] Know, however, that thou art to be received in an
even more sacred inclosure: I have made preparations to welcome thee
with the greatest eagerness and devotion to the innermost recesses
of my heart. In a word, my love for thee is greater and warmer than
the rays of the sun, and my esteem such that no one could cherish a

This is all I have been able to offer thee, leader and father. Any
attempt to free thee from the scorn of the rabble would result in
detracting from thy singular and peculiar praise. Moreover, it is a
task beyond my powers and those of any other, except perhaps of that
man who will have sufficient strength to curb the passions of the
mob. And although God has such power, He has not exerted it in the
past, nor do I think He is likely to do so hereafter.

I have spoken at great length as if thou wert present. Emerging now
from those very vivid flights of the imagination, I realize how very
far removed thou art, and I fear lest it may be annoying to thee
to read so lengthy a letter in the dim light of the lower world. I
reassure myself when I remember that also thy letter was long.

Farewell forever. And when thou wilt have returned to thy seat of
honor, pray give kindly greetings to Orpheus, Linus, Euripides, and
the rest.

_Written in the world above, in that city lying between the famous
rivers Po, Ticino, Adda, and others, whence some say Milan derives
its name, on the ninth of October in the thirteen hundred and
sixtieth year of this last era._


[109]. The man who taught Petrarch the elements of Greek was Bernardo
Barlaamo, theologian, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher.
This learned Italian monk was born at Seminara, Calabria Ulteriore,
and entered the Roman Catholic monastery of St. Basil. From Calabria
he journeyed to Aetolia, afterward studied at Thessalonica (at
that time a center of learning), and finally (1327 or 1328) went
to Constantinople, the better to learn Greek and thus be able to
read Aristotle in the original. He at once became a member of the
Greek church, and in 1331 was appointed Abbot of the Convent of
St. Salvator at Constantinople. He was protected by Andronicus
III (Palaeologus, 1328-41), who in 1339 sent him to Avignon on a
diplomatic mission to Pope Benedict XII, endeavoring to bring about
the union of the two churches in common cause against the Turks.
In this mission Barlaamo was unsuccessful. Returning to Greece, he
attacked the Hesychasts (or Quietists) of Mt. Athos, and became
involved with Gregory Palamas (afterward archbishop of Thessalonica)
on the question of the light which had been manifested to the
disciples on Mt. Tabor at the Transfiguration. At a synod held at
Constantinople in 1341, the Hesychasts defended themselves so ably
that Barlaamo was condemned. Since his protector was now dead, he was
compelled to flee into Italy.

He at once re-entered the Roman church and was made librarian by King
Robert. In 1342 he revisited Avignon on a second mission, and it is
on this occasion that he must have made the acquaintance of Petrarch
(P. de Nolhac, II, p. 136), who during the summer of 1342 received
from him daily instruction in Greek--whether at Avignon or at
Vaucluse is not clear. At the end of the summer Petrarch had made but
small progress. Still he added his recommendation to those of others
when Pope Clement VI nominated Barlaamo bishop of Gerace, a town in
Calabria sixty miles northeast of Reggio. He was consecrated bishop
at Avignon on October 2, 1342, and thereafter left for Gerace, dying
in that town six years later, in 1348.

In conclusion, then, the first seeds of Greek in the West were
sown by a learned, ambitious Calabrian monk, who (to use a modern
expression) went abroad to complete his education, committed apostasy
to further his ambition, repeating the act fourteen years later
when defeated in a religious controversy; a man who, though born in
Italy, was more Greek than Roman (to the extent of almost forgetting
his Latin), who never had entertained the remotest idea of being a
teacher of Greek, and who cared very little for the humble pupil
offered him by chance at Avignon--the enthusiastic poet and scholar
who had received the Laurel Crown at Rome the year before, and who
was destined to become known to future generations as the “first
modern scholar.”

[110]. A reference to the translation of the _Odyssey_ made by
Livius Andronicus, and to the _Epitome_ of the _Iliad_, which is now
attributed to Silius Italicus, but which in the Middle Ages was known
as the _Homerus Latinus_ and later as the _Pindarus Thebanus_ (see n.

[111]. The allusion is to Leonzio Pilato, who claimed to be a pupil
of Barlaamo. The place of his birth is uncertain, owing to the
peculiar character of the man. He was never content with his actual
position and surroundings. In consequence, when in Italy he disdained
and reviled the Italians and things Italian, and declared himself
a native of Thessalonica--as if (comments Petrarch) it were more
honorable to be of Greek than of Italian origin. Similarly, when
in Greece he could not find anyone or anything praiseworthy in the
Eastern Empire and in Byzantium, but boasted of his Calabrian origin.
The probability is that he was born in Calabria. The date is unknown.

Authorities differ as the to year when Leonzio became acquainted with
Petrarch (see n. [114]). Accordingly, the long-bearded adventurer is
said to have met Petrarch at Padua during the winter of 1358-59. The
poet immediately grasped the opportunity of having him translate some
passages from the manuscript of Homer which had been sent to him by
Sigero in 1354 (P. de Nolhac, II, p. 156). In March, 1359, Petrarch
received a visit at Milan from Boccaccio, and may have introduced
Leonzio to him (Koerting, _Boccaccio_, p. 261). Doubtless Petrarch
told him of his recent acquaintance (P. de Nolhac, _ibid._, p. 157),
and showed him the specimen translations from the _Iliad_ which had
been made in the winter just passed (_ibid._, p. 173, and n. [112]
below). Leonzio, it appears, had in the meantime roved to Venice,
where the anxious Boccaccio overtook him (Koerting, _op. cit._, p.
260). Shortly afterward Leonzio declared his intention of leaving
for Avignon in search of fortune. But so desirous was Boccaccio of
learning Greek, and so eager, therefore, to have him near at hand,
that he prevailed upon the Calabrian to visit Florence, which city
they reached together in the early part of 1360; for in August of
that year Leonzio had already been some time at Florence (Koerting,
_ibid._). There Boccaccio gave him lodging at his own home, and
exerted all his influence to have him appointed professor at the
Studio Fiorentino. His efforts were crowned with success, for the
Republic decided to pay Leonzio an annual stipend in return for his
services, which were to consist in giving public lectures on the
works of Homer. Thus was established the first chair of Greek in the
West, and Leonzio Pilato, adventurer though he was, has the honor
of being the first professor of the Greek language and literature
in a western university. He held the newly established chair of
Greek from 1360 to 1363. During three years, from the summer of
1359 to November, 1361 (Koerting, _op. cit._, p. 262), the author
of the _Decameron_ and the other two Florentine friends of Homer
alluded to by Petrarch took private lessons of Leonzio with great
eagerness, and we can readily picture them in Boccaccio’s library,
sitting at the feet of the Calabrian and drinking “the muddy stream
of pseudo-learning and lies that flowed from this man’s lips, with
insatiable avidity” (J. A. Symonds, _The Revival of Learning_, p. 67,
ed. 1898).

It goes without saying that Petrarch was kept duly informed by
Boccaccio of affairs at Florence. The question of translating Homer
was of course uppermost in the minds of both these early humanists,
and it was broached the moment Pilato became established at the
university. Strange to relate, a good manuscript of Homer was not to
be had at Florence, and even Leonzio does not seem to have had one in
his possession. Boccaccio, however, had been told that there was such
a manuscript for sale at Padua, and so wrote to Petrarch requesting
him to procure it. Petrarch promised to do so, adding that if the
Paduan volume slipped through their hands, he would be happy to place
at Leonzio’s disposal the copy sent to him in 1354 by Sigero. And
here it is best to listen to the words of Petrarch himself on the
subject. In a letter dated at Milan, August 18, 1360 (_Var._, 25),
he says:

    I now come to the last point--namely, that if (as you seem to
    think) I have bought the copy of Homer which was for sale at
    Padua, I should please to lend it to you. You reason that I
    possess another copy of old, and that you would entrust the new
    copy to our Leonzio to have him translate it from the Greek
    into Latin for the benefit of yourself and our other studious
    fellow-countrymen. I examined that copy, but did not give it a
    second thought because it was clearly inferior to mine. It may
    still be easily obtained through him who made me acquainted
    with that same Leonzio. Leonzio’s letters will surely have
    great weight with him, and I shall write to him also. If the
    Paduan volume slips through our hands (which, however, I do not
    think likely) then mine will be at your service. I have always
    been very eager for translations of all the Greek authors,
    but of that one author in particular. Had Fate smiled more
    kindly upon me when I entered upon the student’s career, and
    had not death so untimely overtaken my illustrious teacher, I
    should today, perhaps, have something more than a rudimentary
    knowledge of Greek. You may count upon me in your undertaking.
    Indeed, I grieve and am indignant at the loss of that ancient
    translation (the work of Cicero, as far as we can judge), the
    beginning of which Horace inserted in his poem on the _Ars
    Poetica_ (vss. 141, 142). I can scarcely endure this neglect
    of the more truly precious things when I observe the eager
    pursuit of our age for those things that are low and base. But
    what am I to do? I must needs endure it. If proper care and
    diligence on the part of foreigners can in any way make amends
    for our own disregard, may the Muses and Apollo prosper their
    undertakings. Believe me, I could receive no more valuable nor
    acceptable merchandise either from the Chinese, or the Arabs,
    or from the shores of the Red Sea. Do not be shocked--I know
    what I am saying. I am fully aware that the nominative case I
    employed for the expression “acceptable merchandise” (“merx
    gratior”) is not in common use with our grammarians. In the
    ancient writers, however, it is common. I do not mean merely
    those earlier authors, in whose footsteps the ignorant ones of
    today hesitate to follow. I have in mind those authors who are
    very near to us in time, but who in learning and intellect are
    vastly our superiors, men from whose merits the vain chattering
    and the blind pride of our age have not yet dared to detract.
    It is in these authors, I say, that the nominative case is
    found; and since the name occurs to me, I shall add that it is
    to be found in Horace. Let us, therefore, bring it again into
    good repute, if we can, and let us dare to recall from unworthy
    exile a word which has been banished from the domains of that
    tongue to the study of which we devote all our energies.

    I should like to clear my conscience on one point, lest at
    some future day I may repent of having kept silent. You tell
    me that the translation will be a prose one and that it will
    also be very literal. If this be so, pray give due attention to
    the following passage from St. Jerome. I shall quote his exact
    words, because he had an intimate knowledge of both Latin and
    Greek, and was especially skilled in the art of translation.
    In the preamble to his Latin version of the _De temporibus_ (a
    work by Eusebius of Caesarea), St. Jerome says; “If there is
    anyone who does not believe that the grace of the original is
    lost in translation, let him endeavor to translate Homer into
    Latin literally. I shall say more: let him translate Homer into
    the prose of his own vernacular, and he will recognize that
    the order of the words has rendered his translation ridiculous
    and that he has made the most eloquent and vigorous of poets
    of none effect.” I have ventured to give you this warning
    now, that no labor nor time may be wasted. And yet, I greatly
    desire the thing done, no matter how. So ardently do I long to
    become acquainted with noble works that, as in the case of a
    famishing man, I do not insist on the art of a _chef_. I await
    therefrom with great expectations food for the soul. Some time
    ago Leonzio himself made for me a short translation, into Latin
    prose, of the beginning of Homer, which gave me a taste of the
    character of the whole work. The lines gave me pleasure even
    though they were proof of St. Jerome’s assertion. After all,
    you see, they retained their hidden power to please; like unto
    certain rich foods which should be served in gelatine, but
    in which the efforts of the cook have not been crowned with
    success. The form may have been destroyed, but the taste and
    the odor do not perish.

    Let Leonzio therefore persevere in his undertaking, and with
    the help of God may he restore to us Homer, who, as far as we
    are concerned, is a lost author. As regards the other Greek
    authors, may Heaven assist him in his labors. Both of you ask
    that I send you the volume of Plato which I managed to rescue
    from the fire of my transalpine retreat. Your zeal is most
    commendable and you will receive the volume in good time. You
    may rely upon it, no obstacle to your noble undertakings will
    ever be interposed by me. Be very careful, however, of one
    thing: do not commit the serious error of gathering within
    the covers of one and the same volume these two great princes
    of Greek thought. The weight of two such intellects would be
    too great for human shoulders to bear. Let Leonzio commence
    his task with the help of God; and of the two authors he has
    chosen to translate, let him begin with him who wrote so many
    centuries earlier. Farewell.

The Paduan volume must after all have gotten into Boccaccio’s hands,
for we know that Petrarch retained his own copy while Leonzio was
engaged on the translation. Furthermore, from the date of the present
letter addressed to Homer, October 9, 1360, we gather that Leonzio
must have begun his task at least as early as October, 1360. From
this date to 1363 he was occupied in translating both the _Iliad_
and the _Odyssey_, a translation which Fracassetti (Vol. 4, pp. 96,
97) and P. de Nolhac (II, pp. 161-63) argue was made at Petrarch’s
expense. As to its merits it may be said that, like the one of
Livius Andronicus, it was roughly made and was almost verbatim. The
charlatan professor, it appears, knew but little of either Greek or
Latin; and only on the score of relative knowledge and ignorance can
we explain the implicit confidence placed in him by Boccaccio and by
Petrarch. (For the opening lines of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ as
translated by Leonzio, with references, consult Voigt, II, p. 111, n.
4, and J. A. Symonds, _Revival_, p. 68, ed. 1898.)

[112]. We have already seen that when Leonzio Pilato met Petrarch at
Padua in the winter of 1358-59, the latter had him translate several
portions of Homer (see n. [111], par. 2). It is to this translation
that Petrarch here alludes (P. de Nolhac, II, p. 157, n. 2), for
there is no evidence that Pilato sent him any specimens of the
translations done at Florence (cf. Voigt, II, p. 111). Consequently,
this too must be the allusion in the sentence occurring shortly
below, “The Greek flavor has recently been enjoyed by me from a Latin
flagon,” and in the passage from _Var._ 25 (quoted in n. [111]),
“Some time ago Leonzio himself made for me a short translation, into
Latin prose, of the beginning of Homer, which gave me a taste of the
character of the whole work.”

Further proof is offered by the marginal notes which Petrarch made
to the text of Pilato’s translation which Boccaccio sent him.
Frequently he states that elsewhere a different rendering is made of
the original, and even gives the variant. From a study of these P.
de Nolhac concludes (II, pp. 171-74) that the variants derive from
the translation made by Pilato at Padua in the winter of 1358-59; and
that this earlier translation included, perhaps, only the first five
books of the _Iliad_. This last fact serves to explain completely
the expression used by Petrarch in the present letter, “praeter enim
aliquot tuorum principia librorum” (Vol. III, p. 293).

[113]. Before Leonzio completed his translation (which was neither
poetical nor Latin: Voigt, II, p. 191), Petrarch and other mediaeval
students were obliged to content themselves with the _Periochae_ of
the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ which are attributed to Ausonius, and
with a poor _Epitome_ of the _Iliad_ which was known as the _Homerus
Latinus_ or _Pindarus Thebanus_ (P. de Nolhac, II, p. 131). It is
because of the existence of this that some maintain that Leonzio’s
was not the first Latin translation of modern times. A mere glance,
however, will convince anyone that this _Homerus_ (published in 1881
by Baehrens under the title “Italici Ilias Latina,” in _Poetae latini
minores_, Vol. III, pp. 7-59 inclusive), is not a real translation
and does not correspond to the real Homer.

The poem consists of 1,070 hexameters, which were written while
Nero was still ruling. It was quoted as early as Lactantius (died
325 A. D.), and was at first referred to by the simple designation
_Homerus_ or _Homerus Latinus_. The worthy monks of the Middle Ages,
having read that Homer was a Greek, later felt it incumbent upon them
to assign an author to this Latin version, and by some mysterious
process they hit upon the “philosopher” Pindarus of Thebes. From the
thirteenth century on, the name _Pindarus_ prevailed.

In 1880 Fr. Buecheler observed that ll. 1-8 and 1063-70 of the
_Ilias Latina_ formed acrostics, reading respectively “Italicus”
and “Scripsit” (_Rh.M._, XXXV, p. 391). Hence he deduced that
the _Epitome_ was composed by Silius Italicus, the author of the
_Punica_, who died in 101 A. D. This conclusion is practically
accepted by Teuffel, who says (par. 320, nn. 7 and 8) that the
_Ilias_ is probably an early work of Silius Italicus. Baehrens (_op.
cit._) is more guarded, saying that it was written by a “certain
Italicus” (“confecit ... Italicus quidam”), adding farther down on
the same page (p. 3) that Buecheler’s conclusion is not quite right
(“minus recte”), simply because it has been proved that the _Ilias_
was written under Nero, if not earlier. But since Nero died in 68 A.
D., and Italicus in 101 A. D. (at the age of 75), it does not seem
improbable that the _Ilias_ does after all represent an early work,
perhaps even exercise, of Silius Italicus.

It is a sign of keen and clear judgment on the part of Petrarch,
to call into question both here and elsewhere (cf. _Fam._, X, 4),
in spite of his ignorance of the original, the real merits and
the authenticity of the _Homerus Latinus_, in an age when it was
universally accepted as a good and faithful translation from the

[114]. It seems à propos briefly to relate here Leonzio’s career
subsequent to the professorship at Florence and to the translation of
Homer. Upon invitation of Niccoló Acciaiuoli, a Florentine who then
held the post of grand seneschal at the court of Naples, Boccaccio
had paid a visit to that city in 1361 (Koerting, _Bocc._, p. 262),
taking Leonzio as his traveling companion. Leaving in the beginning
of the summer of 1363, the two paid Petrarch a visit at Venice; and
it is from this visit that some would date the beginning of Leonzio’s
personal acquaintance with Petrarch (Frac., 4, p. 97). Boccaccio
spent the months of June, July, and August, 1363, at Venice with his
dearly beloved friend, but was then obliged to return to the city on
the Arno. He wished Leonzio to accompany him as before; but such was
the inconstancy of that gloomy Calabrian that he absolutely refused
to do so, declaring his intention of returning to Constantinople.

In a letter to Boccaccio dated at Venice, March 1, 1365 (_Sen._,
III, 6), Petrarch acquaints him with Leonzio’s departure from Venice
in the spring of 1364 (Koerting, _Petrarca_, p. 475), saying that
he had presented the departing guest with a copy of Terence (in
whose comedies Leonzio seemed to take such great delight) and had
begged him to purchase for him in the East the works of Sophocles,
Euripides, and of other classic Greek authors (_Sen._, VI, 1).
Petrarch adds that, prior to leaving, Leonzio had heaped vile abuse
upon Italy and the Italians, but that he had no sooner touched the
eastern shores of the Adriatic than, with characteristic fickleness,
he had sent a long letter casting imprecations upon Greece and
Constantinople. In _Seniles_ V, 3 (of December 10, 1366, Koerting,
_Bocc._, p. 263, n. 2) Petrarch declares his firm resolve of never
recalling Leonzio and of disregarding entirely all his prayers and
entreaties. This letter shows bitter feeling against Leonzio, wherein
Petrarch is goaded by the thought of the former’s unfeeling and
uncalled-for departure. The last letter pertaining to Leonzio’s life
(_Sen._, VI, 1, of January 25 or 27, 1367, P. de Nolhac II, pp. 164,
165, and Koerting, _Bocc._, p. 263, n. 2) is one full of compassion,
for it gives an account of his death toward the end of 1366--how,
during a storm at sea, Leonzio, like Ulysses, had strapped himself to
the mast, and had been struck dead by a thunderbolt.

[115]. See above, n. [112].

[116]. Sen., _Contr._, iii, _praef._, 8: “Ciceronem eloquentia sua
in carminibus destituit; Vergilium illa felicitas ingenii [sui]
oratione soluta reliquit.” Comparing with Frac., Vol. III, pp. 293,
294, it will be seen that Petrarch has adapted the above words to his

[117]. For the poetical efforts of Cicero consult C. F. W. Mueller
(Teubner, 1898), Vol. III, Pt. IV, pp. 350-405, “Fragmenta Poematum.”
As to Vergil, we gather that he must have written letters to Augustus
from the words of Donatus (_Vita Verg._, XII, 46, p. 61R). Macrobius
(I, 24, 11) gives a five-line quotation from a letter of the poet to
the emperor. In fact, comparing the contents of this quotation with
the statement in Donatus, it seems that the five lines are from the
very letter referred to by the biographer.

[118]. St. Jerome, _Chron._, II, _praef._ 2, end, in Migne, Vol.
XXVII, coll. 223, 224. Petrarch quotes the same passage, and à propos
of the same subject, in _Var._ 25. Consult n. [111] above, in which
a lengthy extract from that letter is given. The present letter to
Homer (_Fam._, XXIV, 12) is dated October 9, 1360; _Var._ 25 to
Boccaccio is dated August 18, 1360. If, then, the _aliquando_ of the
present letter alludes to _Var._ 25, it will be evident that the
interval elapsed was but a short one.

[119]. The translation by Leonzio Pilato was made into Latin prose.
The reference here, however, must be to the preliminary translation
made at Padua in the winter of 1358-59 (cf. nn. [111] and [112]). In
_Var._ 25 Petrarch employs the same figure.

[120]. _Fam._, XXIV, 10 (to Horace) and XXIV, 11 (to Vergil) are
in the form of poetic epistles. In 1359 (cf. _Fam._, XX, 7, note)
Petrarch separated all those letters which he did not destroy into
two groups: the prose epistles, which he dedicated to Socrates
(_Fam._, _praefatio_, I, pp. 15, 16, and _Fam._, XXIV, 13), and the
poetic epistles, which he dedicated to Barbato da Sulmona (_praef._,
_loc. cit._, and _Fam._, XXII, 3). The appearance in this collection,
therefore, of the poetic epistles to Horace and to Vergil, must be
due to their subject-matter, for they very naturally fall among those
letters written “veteribus illustribus viris” (Vol. III, p. 306).

[121]. Apparently, Petrarch had received a letter purporting to be
from the shade of Homer. The author of it is unknown. If it came from
Florence, then of course it must have emanated from the circle of his
Florentine friends. However, in Vol. 5, pp. 197, 198, Fracassetti,
commenting upon the words, “Tua illa Bononia quam suspiras ... unum
habet” (Vol. III, p. 301), but reading “qua suspiras,” translates,
“That Bologna of yours whence you send such laments,” and hazards
the suggestion that the letter to which this of Petrarch is a reply
came from Bologna and not from Florence. We may go a step farther.
Since Homeric scholars in Italy were so scarce at the time, and since
Petrarch states that Bologna could boast of but one--Pietro di Muglio
or de Muglo (cf. n. [139])--it would seem (if Fracassetti be right)
that Pietro di Bologna was responsible for the pseudo-Homer letter.
As Messrs. Robinson and Rolfe perhaps justly remark of that letter
(_Petrarch_, p. 253, n. 2): “It must have been even more interesting
than this reply, in its unconscious revelation of mediaeval

[122]. In this instance Petrarch is carried away by his subject, and
addresses his (to us unknown) correspondent as if he were the real
Homer and a Greek. Compare what has been said on this subject in the
preceding note.

[123]. The reference is to _Rem. utr. fort._, I, 64, entitled
_De aviariis avibusque loquacibus_--a most ridiculous place in
which to find mention of the bard of Smyrna. On p. 193 one of the
interlocutors says, “I own a most eloquent magpie.” To which the
other replies that it is absurd to apply such a term to a magpie,
adding, “But if the magpie forthwith forget a word, either because
the word is a difficult one or because of its own weak memory, it
may even die of grief. Hence we must now consider less marvelous the
death of the poet Homer, if indeed the current report be true”--“si
tamen illa (mors) etiam vera est.” The _De remediis_ was begun in
1358 (Frac., I, p. 1, n. 1) and finished in 1366 (Torraca, I, Pt.
II, p. 231). Since the date of the Homer letter is October 9, 1360,
it results that at least the first sixty-four chapters of Book I of
the _De remediis_ were written before this date. We see, too, that
by this slight reference to Homer, Petrarch did give some currency
to the report that Homer died of grief, and did add to it a note of

The story of Homer’s death, as Petrarch and other mediaeval men knew
it, must have been the one they found in Valerius Maximus; and though
Petrarch does not actually cite him as his source, this clearly
results from the references to Sophocles and to Philemon shortly
following. Valerius, then, says (ix, 12, _ext._ 3):

    The cause of Homer’s death too is said to have been an uncommon
    one. Having landed at the island of Ios, certain fishermen
    asked him a riddle which he was unable to read, in consequence
    of which Homer is believed to have died of grief.

The legend in its more complete form (unknown to Petrarch) is derived
from the so-called _Lives_ compiled from the minor poems falsely
attributed to Homer. It runs as follows. On his way to Thebes, Homer
landed at Ios, where he saw some young fishermen on the shore with
their nets. In answer to his question as to what they had caught,
the young fishermen propounded to him this riddle: “What we caught
we left, what we caught not we bring.” Homer was unable to read this
riddle; and remembering an oracle which had foretold that he would
die “through chagrin at his inability to read the riddle of the
fishermen,” he wrote an epitaph for himself and died of vexation and
grief on the third day thereafter (cf. _New International Encycl._,
and the _Brit._).

If Petrarch questioned the credibility of the shorter and simpler
version of Valerius, what would he have said of this fuller legend,
elaborated as it was with so many undignified frills?

[124]. Val. Max., ix, 12, _ext._ 5:

    When Sophocles was already in extreme old age, he submitted one
    of his tragedies in competition at the games. For a long time
    he was very anxious concerning (as he thought) the doubtful
    decision of the judges. But his great joy when he was at last
    unanimously declared victor, brought about his death.

Cf. Pliny, _N. H._, VII, 53, 180.

[125]. Fully to realize Petrarch’s state of mind, it is necessary to
quote substantial portions of his two sources for these statements.
The first statement is again founded on Val. Max., ix, 12, _ext._ 6:

    The strain of excessive laughter took off Philemon. Some
    figs had been prepared for him, but had been left in open
    view. Seeing a young ass eating them, Philemon summoned a boy
    to drive him away. The boy, however, answered the summons
    leisurely, arriving when all the figs had already been
    devoured. Whereupon Philemon said, “Since you have been so
    slow in coming, now give the ass some wine.” And forthwith he
    began to roar at his own witty remark, panting hard until the
    irregular breathing in his aged throat choked him.

The second version, which Petrarch considers “more serious and more
credible,” is that of Apuleius, _Florida_, xvi:

    For these praiseworthy qualities he (Philemon) was for a long
    time well known as a writer of comedies. It happened one day
    that he was giving a public reading of part of a play which he
    had recently written. When he had reached the third act ... a
    sudden rainstorm arose ... which compelled the gathering and
    the reading to be postponed. Upon being urgently pressed by
    several, Philemon promised that he would finish the reading on
    the very next day. And so on the following day a large throng
    of very eager men gathered in the theater.... But when they had
    sat waiting longer than seemed reasonable, and when Philemon
    did not put in an appearance, several of the more eager were
    sent to summon him, and found him dead in his bed.... Returning
    thence they reported to the expectant audience that the poet
    Philemon, whom they were so eagerly attending, to hear him
    complete the reading of his latest play, had already, and at
    his own home, brought a real drama to a close.

In his manuscript of the _Florida_, Petrarch wrote the following
marginal note to this passage: “This version of the death of Philemon
is somewhat nobler than the one related by Valerius and, indeed,
by myself; for in a certain letter of mine I followed both him and
the current opinion.” P. de Nolhac says that he has not been able
to find the letter referred to by Petrarch (II, p. 102, and n. 4).
The present epistle to Homer was written in 1360; and it may well be
that the letter referred to was destroyed in the general holocaust
of 1359, when Petrarch sorted his correspondence into the two
collections (cf. above, n. [120]). Moreover, it was just like the
careful Petrarch to destroy a wrong version when he had once learned
the true one.

[126]. On the general similarity between the _Odyssey_ and the
_Aeneid_, Petrarch says (_Rer. mem._, III, 3, “De sapienter dictis
vel factis,” p. 456):

    Homer describes his Ulysses (in whom he means to give the type
    of a wise and brave man) as wandering over lands and seas, and
    in his poem makes him encircle nearly the entire world. Our
    poet has followed this example; he too carries his Aeneas over
    the different countries of the earth. Both poets have done so
    designedly; for wisdom can hardly be gained without experience
    nor can experience be had by one who does not see and observe
    many things. And, finally, it is hard to understand how one can
    see many things if he stirs not abroad, but sticks close to one
    little corner of this earth.

Petrarch enters upon a more general discussion of the two poets,
quoting from Macrobius and others, in _Rer. mem._, II, 2, “De
ingenio,” p. 413:

    Among the Greeks Homer reigns supreme in the intellectual
    world. Of this dictum not I, but Pliny is the author, who
    ascribes to him a richer, broader, and boundless glory [cf.
    Pliny, _N. H._, ii, 6; xxv, 2 (5)]. It is perfectly clear
    that with the aid of his divine genius Homer has solved
    a large number of philosophical problems in a far better
    and more decisive fashion than the professed philosophers
    themselves. Macrobius with great assurance pronounces Homer
    the fountain-head and source of all divine inspiration [Comm.
    in Somn. Scip., ii, 10, 11]. And rightly so. For although
    tradition has it that Homer was physically blind, his soul was
    so clear and luminous that Tullius says of him in the Tusculans
    [v, 114]: “His verses are as a painting, not poetry. What
    country, what coast, what part of Greece, what manner of battle
    and array of soldiers, what army, what fleet, what motions
    of men and of beasts have not been depicted by him with such
    skill as to make it possible for us to see what he himself did
    not see?” But why should I discourse on his eloquence, since
    in the oft-cited books of the _Saturnalia_ there is drawn an
    extensive and undecided parallel between our poet and the Greek
    [book v entire]? In the course of a thousand and one arguments,
    now this one is proved superior, now that one, and shortly
    they are shown to be equal [_Sat._, v, 12, 1]. In consequence
    these arguments leave the reader doubtful of the issue--an
    uncertainty admirably expressed by the satirist in these verses
    [Juvenal, xi, 180, 181, ed. Fried., translated by Gifford, II,
    p. 161]:

    “Great Homer shall his deep-ton’d thunder roll,
    And mighty Maro elevate the soul;
    Maro, who, warm’d with all the poet’s fire,
    Disputes the palm of victory with his sire.”

[127]. Horace, _Sat._, i, 5, 41, 42.

[128]. Macrobius gives us an example of the accusation generally made
in antiquity against Vergil--_Sat._, v, 3, 16:

    Continue prithee, said Avienus, to trace all that he [Vergil]
    borrowed from Homer. For what can be sweeter than to hear
    two pre-eminent poets voicing the same thoughts? These three
    things are held to be equally impossible: to steal either the
    lightning of Jove, or the club of Hercules, or the verses of
    Homer, and for the reason that, even if it were possible,
    it would seem unbecoming for any other than Jove to hurl
    the lightning, any other than Hercules to excel in physical
    strength, any other than Homer to sing the verses he sang.
    Still, this author [Vergil] has opportunely embodied in his
    poem that which the earlier bard had sung, making it appear
    that it is his own.

The retort referred to is not to be found in the _Saturnalia_ (a slip
on Petrarch’s part), but in St. Jerome, who says (_Praefatio lib.
hebr. quaest. in Genesim_, Migne, Vol. XXIII, col. 983):

    Also the bard of Mantua was criticised by his rivals in this
    way [_sc._, as Terence by Luscius Lanuvinus]. For, having
    used, unchanged, certain verses of Homer, he was called a mere
    compiler of the earlier poets. To which he replied that it
    was a sign of great power to wrest the club from the hands of
    Hercules--“magnarum esse virium clavam Herculi extorquere de

With this compare Frac., III, p. 298. St. Jerome himself, however,
must have been quoting from the life by Donatus, and in so doing gave
a different turn to the reply. Donatus says (_Vita Verg._, XVI, 64,
p. 66R) that Vergil replied: “Why did not they too attempt the same
thefts? They would discover that it is easier to steal the club of
Hercules than to pilfer a verse from Homer.”

Petrarch’s purpose is to emphasize how vigorous a poet Vergil is, and
how worthy of following in Homer’s footsteps. Hence he does not have
recourse to the more ancient defense which was ready to his hand in
Macrobius, _Sat._, VI, 3, 1, to the effect that it was the earlier
Roman poets who stole from Homer, and that Vergil borrowed from these
earlier pilferers belonging to his own race. Such line of argument
would have made Vergil the second thief, but it would not have made
his verses the best stolen.

[129]. Lucan, _Pharsalia_, ix, 980-86 (tr. by Edw. Ridley, p. 299,
vss. 1157-66):

    O sacred task of poets, toil supreme,
    Which rescuing all things from allotted fate
    Dost give eternity to mortal men!
    Grudge not the glory, Caesar, of such fame.
    For if the Latian Muse may promise aught,
    Long as the heroes of the Trojan time
    Shall live upon the page of Smyrna’s bard,
    So long shall future races read of thee
    In this my poem; and Pharsalia’s song
    Live unforgotten in the age to come.

[130]. Horace, _Ars Poetica_, 396-401, and _Carm._, iv. 9, vss. 5, 6.

[131]. Theocritus in _Ecl._, iv, 1, and vi, 1; Hesiod in _Georg._,
ii, 176.

[132]. Statius, _Theb._, xii, 816, 817.

[133]. In Petrarch’s days the _Appendix Vergiliana_ was known as the
_Ludi Iuveniles_, and included what is now published by Baehrens in
the _Poetae latini minores_, Vol. II. Judging from the statement of
the present letter, Petrarch was acquainted with these _Ludi_, or
with some of them at least. Boccaccio was the first to add the eighty
_Priapea_ to his codex of the _Ludi_ (Sabbadini, p. 32). Sabbadini,
p. 24 and n. 5, gives proof that Petrarch knew the _Culex_ and the
_Rosae_, and on p. 31 adds that he was furthermore acquainted with
some of the _Catalecta_, without giving proof.

In this letter to Homer, Petrarch states that the former’s name is
mentioned in the _Ludi_. The total number of references to Homer
in the _Appendix Vergiliana_ is four: _Ciris_, 65; in the epigram
closing the _Catalecta_, vs. 2; _Priapea_, 68, 4, and 80, 5. In the
_Rendiconti del R. Ist. Lomb._ (1906, p. 386), Sabbadini remarks at
this point: “A quali e a quanti dei tre componimenti alludesse il
Petrarca, non ci é dato indovinare, ma ciascuno dei tre era a quei
tempi una cospicua novitá.” Personally we should be inclined to favor
the _Ciris_ and the _Catalecta_, and, indeed, to give the latter
reference in support of the statement of Sabbadini on p. 31. But
until further proof is found, all discussion on this point is merely
idle speculation.

[134]. Donatus, in speaking of Vergil, says (p. 65R): “Vergil never
lacked detractors; and no wonder: even Homer had his.”

[135]. This, of course, is a reference to some statement occurring in
the pseudo-Homer letter which Petrarch had received.

[136]. See above, n. [130].

[137]. Petrarch’s words are: “cum verissime dicat hebraeus Sapiens
quod ‘_stultorum infinitus est numerus_’” (III, p. 301). From the
manner of Petrarch’s quoting, and from the fact that Fracassetti
italicizes the words in single quotation marks, it would be inferred
that the citation is from the Bible. But an exhaustive search through
the Concordances of both Cruden and Young has failed to reveal such
a passage, though sentiments on the subject of folly and fools are
quite numerous. It may be, of course, that Petrarch epitomized, or
rather formulated a deduction of his own from the books of Proverbs
and Ecclesiastes.

[138]. Concerning the nationality of Leonzio Pilato consult what has
been said above in n. 3, par. 1.

[139]. It is generally agreed that of the three scholars said to
be at Florence, Boccaccio must be one. The other two cannot be
identified with certainty, but they are to be chosen from among
Nelli, Salutati, and Bruni; of no one of whom, however, do we know as
a fact that he was acquainted with Greek. It is for this reason that
Tedaldo della Casa, who studied Greek under Leonzio Pilato, has, with
greater probability, been suggested as one of the three Florentines
(Baldelli). Petrarch himself has been thought of by De Sade as the
fourth, but (it seems) on insufficient grounds. The fifth Florentine
is without doubt Zanobi de Strada, who in 1359 was appointed
apostolic secretary by Innocent VI, and who in consequence abandoned
Naples and Italy for Avignon, the Babylon across the Alps.

The scholar at Bologna, too, can be named: Pietro di Muglio or de
Muglo (cf. n. [121]). The Veronese humanists are Guglielmo da Pastrengo
and Rinaldo da Villafranca. The Mantuan, according to De Sade and
Tiraboschi, is Andrea (surnamed) Mantovano; and the one from Perugia,
finally, has been variously identified with Paolo Perugino (Baldelli)
and Muzio da Perugia (De Sade and Tiraboschi). Fracassetti (Vol. 5,
p. 197) has omitted all mention of the humanist at Sulmona, who very
probably is to be identified with Marco Barbato da Sulmona. (Consult
Frac., _loc. cit._, who gives some cross-references to his own notes;
and Voigt.)

[140]. Cf. n. [109].

[141]. This note of despair was wrung from Petrarch by his dismay
at the existent state of affairs and by his own high ideals of
scholarship. That it eventually proved to be an utterly false
prophecy was due mainly to the vigorous impulse which he himself gave
to the cause of humanism.

[142]. Cf. n. [123].

[143]. The famous words from the epitaph of Ennius (Cic., _Tusc._, i,
34), which Petrarch has here adapted to his purpose by the insertion
of the bracketed words, “(Nam) volito vivus (docta) per ora virum”
(Frac., III, p. 303).

[144]. Petrarch had owned a Greek Homer as early as 1354, when his
friend Niccoló Sigero sent him a copy from Constantinople (cf. n. [111],
par. 2). _Fam._, XVIII, 2, describes Petrarch’s joy at its reception,
and also his sorrow at not being able to understand a word of it,
which clearly proves that the first modern scholar had not made
much progress after a summer’s instruction from the first teacher
of Greek in the western world (see n. [109]). In Latin, Petrarch had
the _Periochae_ which are attributed to Ausonius and the _Homerus
Latinus_ or _Pindarus Thebanus_ (for which see n. [113]).

[145]. Fond hopes was Petrarch nourishing, and vain! We must remember
that when Leonzio Pilato finished his translation of Homer in
1363, there was but one copy of it, and that that copy remained at
Florence. We can well imagine Petrarch’s eagerness to peruse it. His
first inquiry is made in _Seniles_, III, 6 (of March 1, 1365), by
which letter he requests that some portion at least of the _Odyssey_
be forwarded to him, continuing that he is quite content to wait for
the rest. From _Seniles_ V, 1 (Padua, December 14, 1365, Koerting,
_Bocc._, p. 263, n. 2), we learn that when Boccaccio received this
pressing note, the _Iliad_ had already been transcribed; and so he
hastened to make with his own hand a transcription of that passage
in the _Odyssey_ describing the descent of Ulysses to Hades. In the
same letter Petrarch expresses satisfaction at hearing that this is
at last on its way to him. Through some mishap, however, the precious
package had not yet reached its destination at Venice by the 25th or
27th of January, 1367 (_Sen._, VI, 1; Koerting, _op. cit._; P. de
Nolhac, II, p. 165). The joy of Petrarch, when he at last grasped
the translation of Homer with his own hands and beheld it among the
books on his own shelves, is simply expressed in the closing words
of _Seniles_ VI, 2 (undated, but later than VI, 1). To conclude, the
translation, which was begun by Leonzio in the latter half of 1360
(the date of _Fam._, XXIV, 12), did not reach him who was the most
eager for it till seven years later.


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