Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy

Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy

by James Hankins


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Tuesday, April 27


A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year

A bold, revisionist account of the political thought of the Italian Renaissance—from Petrarch to Machiavelli—that reveals the all-important role of character in shaping society, both in citizens and in their leaders.

Convulsed by a civilizational crisis, the great thinkers of the Renaissance set out to reconceive the nature of society. Everywhere they saw problems. Corrupt and reckless tyrants sowing discord and ruling through fear; elites who prized wealth and status over the common good; military leaders waging endless wars. Their solution was at once simple and radical. “Men, not walls, make a city,” as Thucydides so memorably said. They would rebuild their city, and their civilization, by transforming the moral character of its citizens. Soulcraft, they believed, was a precondition of successful statecraft.

A dazzlingly ambitious reappraisal of Renaissance political thought by one of our generation’s foremost intellectual historians, Virtue Politics challenges the traditional narrative that looks to the Renaissance as the seedbed of modern republicanism and sees Machiavelli as its exemplary thinker. James Hankins reveals that what most concerned the humanists was not reforming laws or institutions so much as shaping citizens. If character mattered more than constitutions, it would have to be nurtured through a new program of education they called the studia humanitatis: the humanities.

We owe liberal arts education and much else besides to the bold experiment of these passionate and principled thinkers. The questions they asked—Should a good man serve a corrupt regime? What virtues are necessary in a leader? What is the source of political legitimacy? Is wealth concentration detrimental to social cohesion? Should citizens be expected to fight for their country?—would have a profound impact on later debates about good government and seem as vital today as they did then.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674237551
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 12/17/2019
Pages: 768
Sales rank: 319,129
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

James Hankins is Professor of History at Harvard University and founder and General Editor of the I Tatti Renaissance Library. He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy and Renaissance Civic Humanism and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on humanist political thought.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 A Civilization in Crisis 1

A New "Paideuma" and the Birth of the Humanities

The Causes of the Crisis

The Reform of Christian Culture

The Humanist Movement Takes Shape

2 Virtue Politics 31

Obedience and Legitimacy

Virtue Politics

Classical Sources of Virtue Politics

How Not to Reform a Republic

Eloquence and the "Virtuous Environment"

A New Way of Thinking about Politics

3 What Was a Republic in the Renaissance? 63

The Renaissance Concept of the State

What Is the Meaning of Respublica in the Italian Renaissance?

Respublica Romana

Respublica in Medieval Scholasticism

Leonardo Bruni and Respublica in the Fifteenth Century

Respublica: An Idealization of Ancient Government

Is Civic Humanism Found Only in Non-monarchical Republics?

4 Taming the Tyrant 103

Tyranny in Greek Philosophy

Cicero's Understanding of Caesar's Tyranny as Violation of Ius

Bartolus of Sassoferrato and Baldo degli Ubaldi

Petrarch on Living with Tyrants

Was Caesar a Tyrant? Petrarch, Salutati, Guarino, Poggio

Poggio on Tyranny and the "Problem of Counsel"

Pier Candido Decembrio on the Virtues of a Tyrant

The Recovery of Ancient Greek Sources on Tyranny

5 The Triumph of Virtue: Petrarch's Political Thought 153

Petrarch's Politics of Virtue

Cola di Puenzo: Populism and Its Limits

Petrarch's New Realism

6 Should a Good Man Participate in a Corrupt Government? Petrarch on the Solitary Life 174

The De Vita Solitaria: An Ideal of Private Life for Literary Men

The Defense of Private Life

Seneca versus Augustine: Political Obligation and Political Autonomy

7 Boccaccio on the Perils of Wealth and Status 192

Boccaccio's Political Experience

The Need to Reform the Materia Prima of Politics: Human Nature

Virtue, Education, and Tyranny

Boccaccio and the Humanist Debate about Private Wealth and Economic Injustice

Boccaccio and Virtue Politics

8 Leonardo Bruni and the Virtuous Hegemon 218

Why Florence Deserves to Be the Heir of Rome: The Panegyric of the City of Florence

Political Liberty as a Source of Virtue

The Etruscan Model: Leadership in a Federal Republic

Dante and Bruni on the Legitimation of Empire

9 Wax and Military Service in the Virtuous Republic 238

Late Medieval Civic Knighthood and the Context of Leonardo Bruni's De Militia

Excursus: The Humanists and Partisan Politics

Bruni's De Militia: A New Interpretation

Excursus on the "Virtuous Environment": Donatello and the Representation of Classical Military Virtue

Do Humanist Teachings on Warfare Anticipate Machiavelli?

Virtue in Military Life

Roberto Valturio on the Education of Soldiers

10 A Mirror for Statesmen: Leonardo Bruni's History of the Florentine People 271

History as Political Theory

Virtue in the Service of the Republic's Glory

The Primacy of the Popolo and the Suppression of Factions

Moderation in Politics as the Key to Social Concord

11 Biondo Flavio: What Made the Romans Great 289

The Roma Triumphans and the Revival of Roman Civilization

What Was the Respublica Romana for Biondo?

Biondo's Virtue Politics, Republicanism, and the Greatness of Rome

A Cosmopolitan Papalist

12 Cyriac of Ancona on Democracy and Empire 305

A Short History of the Term Democratia

Cyriac of Ancona's Attempted Rehabilitation of the Term Democratia

Cyriac the Caesarian

13 Leon Battista Alberti on Corrupt Princes and Virtuous Oligarchs 318

Why Virtue Is Incompatible with Court Life

Who Should Constitute the Political Elite?

The De Iciarchia and the Regime of Virtuous "House


14 George of Trebizond on Cosmopolitanism and Liberty 335

George's Attack on Nativism and Defense of Cosmopolitanism

A Renaissance Libertarian?

15 Francesco Filelfo and the Spartan Republic 351

Filelfo and the Recovery of the Spartan Tradition

Filelfo and Humanist Adaptations of the Myth of Sparta

16 Greek Constitutional Theory in the Quattrocento 364

The "Second Wave" of Greek Constitutional Theory

Legitimation and the Republican Regime

Francesco Patrizi on Republican Constitutions

Delegitimation: Bruni and the Chivalric Ideal

Substitution: Platonizing Venice's Constitution

Mario Salamonio Compares Florence to Athens

17 Francesco Patrizi and Humanist Absolutism 386

The Recovery of Ancient Greek Monarchical Theory

Patrizi and His Project in the De Regno

Virtuous Royal Legitimacy and Humanist Absolutism

The Argument for Monarchy

Can Monarchical Power Be Virtuous?

How the King May Become Virtuous

18 Machiavelii: Reviving the Military Republic 423

The Calamità d'Italia

Machiavelli and Humanist Literary Culture

Machiavelli's Political Education and The Art of War

Why Princes and Republics Should Follow the Ancient Way of Warfare

19 Machiavelli: From Virtue to Virtù 449

Machiavelli's Prince and Renaissance Conceptions of Tyranny

The Machiavellian Revolution in Political Thought

Machiavelli's Virtù

20 Two Cures for Hyperpartisanship: Bruni versus Machiavelli 476

Two Competing Narratives of Florentine History

The Ordinances of Justice

Walter of Brienne and the Instability of Tyranny

The Restoration of Popular Institutions in 1343

Two Cures for Hyperpartisanship

21 Conclusion: Ex Oriente Lux 495

Appendixes 517

A Petrarch on Political Obligations: De vita solitaria 2.9.19-22 (Chapter 6) 517

B Speech of Rinaldo Gianfigliazzi before the Florentine Priors, 1399, from Leonardo Bruni's History of the Florentine People, 11.75-78 (Chapter 10) 521

C Renaissance Editions, Translations, and Compendia of Francesco Patrizi of Siena's Political Works (Chapter 16) 525

Notes: Note on Sources and Translations-Abbreviations 529

Bibliography: Texts and Translations-Secondary Literature 651

Acknowledgments 699

Index of Manuscripts and Archival Documents 705

General Index 707

Customer Reviews