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Attitudes And Views Of Classical Authors Through The Eyes Of Leonardo Bruni And Francis Petrarch

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Leonardo Bruni and Francis Petrarch were two very eloquent and esteemed authors of their time; however, that is not to say that there was no opposition to their views. In fact, many disapproved of their attitudes toward classical authors and the time period but even then that opposition sometimes served to define their characters and reinforce their eloquence. Bruni and Petrarch revere certain authors for their eloquence, and wisdom while condemn others for their ignorance. Because of their ideas of what defines a well-expressed and articulate author and what defines and unapprised one, their views of classical authors often equal each other and at other times rival each other.

Leonardo Bruni retained a gamut of attitudes toward classical authors. His views on Cicero, Aristotle, and Dante are readily seen n his work, The Dialogues, Bruni speaks highly and praises both Cicero and Aristotle for their eloquence and knowledge. According to Bruni, illustrated by Niccolo Niccoli, philosophy was once brought from Greece into Italy by Cicero and watered by that golden stream of eloquence. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p. 67) Bruni rebukes the people for preserving authors such as Cassiodorus and Alcidus who wrote nonsense that, "even men of moderate learning never cared to read" instead of preserving the works of Cicero from which, "the muses of the Latin language never produced anything fairer". (Bruni, The Dialogues, p. 67) Bruni places the blame of this mistake on the ignorance of men and states that if they had attained even a superficial acquaintance with them (Cicero's works), they certainly would never have neglected Cicero's works, which were endowed with such eloquence that they would easily avoid being scorned by a not uncultivated reader. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p 67) To Bruni, Cicero was so gratifying that even his name was pleasing to him. When speaking of Cicero, Bruni calls him by his full name, Marcus Tullius Cicero, so that, "he will be longer in my mouth". (Bruni, The Dialogues, p 68). That is to say, Bruni believed that just the name of Cicero contained an air of eloquence. To Bruni, Cicero was a man to be revered and praised. Cicero defined what was considered eloquent and was an innovator for the study of philosophy.

Another man revered by Bruni is Aristotle. Aristotle, like Cicero was eloquent and knowledgeable, but unlike Cicero his works are less known in the sense that translations have wrongfully transcribed his views. For Bruni, who is to be believed to understand Aristotle's views, Aristotle is a man of elegance. The people, like Bruni, cite Aristotle often for his knowledge. Men often spoke of wisdom but if any one should ask them on whose authority and precepts they rely in this splendid wisdom of theirs, they say, Ð''the Philosopher's' by which they mean Aristotle's. And when there is need to confirm something or other they bring forth the sayings in these books which they claim to be Aristotle's Ð'- words harsh, awkward, dissonant, which would war out anyone's ears. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p 67). Aristotle was a man of great knowledge and when an idea was in question, men would quote the harsh words of Aristotle relying on the dictum that the philosopher said so. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p 67). Bruni ridiculed men who only revered Aristotle for his knowledge and believed him to be man without eloquence. Cicero names Aristotle to be a wise, eloquent man, and Bruni, who was such a devout believer in Cicero, believes that this idea of Aristotle to be true. Bruni defends Aristotle when men claim that he should not be revered for his eloquence because all of his works are harsh and dissonant. Bruni believes that the books of Aristotle have suffered such a great transformation that were anyone to bring them to Aristotle himself, he would not recognize them as his own anymore than his own dogs recognized Actaeon. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p 69) According the Cicero, Aristotle was devoted to eloquence and wrote with an incredible pleasantness but his translated works are troublesome and harsh to read, entangled in such obscurity that not even Sibyl or Oedipus would call them eloquent. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p. 69) Still, with Cicero's adamant claim that Aristotle was a man of elegance Bruni endeavors to claim this as well.

Even with his strong reverence of Cicero and Aristotle, Bruni leaves room to ridicule some ancient classical authors such as Dante, and Petrarch. Bruni accuses Dante of having a lack of knowledge with respect to contemporary culture. In his writings, Dante describes Marcus Cato, who perished in the civil wars, as a very old man with a long white beard- an obvious display of ignorance, since he died at Utica in the forty-eighth year of his life. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p 73). Bruni believes that Dante's most grievous and ignorant fault is damning Marcus Brutus, a man distinguished for justices, discretion, magnanimity, every virtue, because he slew Caesar and plucked from the robber's jaws the liberty of the Roman people, with the greatest penalty. In comparison Dante places Junius Brutus, a man known for driving out a king in the Elysian Fields. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p 73). Dante ridicules Dante for his hypocrisy. While Dante praises Junius for driving out a king who received the kingdom justly, he condemns Marcus for doing away with a king who received the kingdom by force of arms. According to Bruni, Marcus should be exalted in heaven for cutting down a tyrant. (Bruni, The Dialogues, p 73). Bruni also rebukes Dante for his lack of Latinity. As per Bruni, a poet is defined by a certain mastery of Latin. Since Dante cannot claim knowledge in that area he cannot be considered a poet.

Bruni also attacks Petrarch for his lack of eloquence and knowledge. Bruni believes that men who profess their knowledge but



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