All Scholars

FILELFO, Francesco

  • Image
  • Date of Birth: July 25, 1398
  • Born City: Tolentino
  • Born State/Country: Italy
  • Date of Death: July 31, 1481
  • Death City: Florence
  • Death State/Country: Italy
  • Education:

    Study at Padua and Constantinople. 

  • Professional Experience:

    Cathedra of Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy,Venice, later Vicenza, 1417-21; secretary for the Republic of Venice in Constantinople, 1421-6; Itinerant teacher in Venice, Bologna, Florence 1427-8; Bologna, 1428-9; professore, Studio Fiorentino, 1429-34; in Siena 1434-8; Bologna, 1438-9; at court of the Vicenzi & Sforza, 1439-81; Poet Laureate and Apostolic Secretary under Pope Nicolaus V, 1453; prof. Greek, Florence, 1480-1; 

  • Publications:

    Xenophon, Constitution of Sparta, and Agesilaus (1430); Convivia Mediolanensia (1443); De jociis et seriosi (1445-65) Xenophon Cyropaedia (1467); Plutarch, Apophthegmata Laconica; Satyrae (1475)Pseudo-Aristotle, Rhetorica ad Alexandrum Orationes Francisci Philelphi cum aliis opusculis (Venice 1492); Epistolarum familiarium libri XXXVII (Venice 1502); Conviviorum Francisci Philelphi libri II, (Cologne 1537); Due orazioni... in lode dello illustrissimo poeta Dante Alighieri, ed. M. dello Russo (1867); Satyrae I. Decadi 1-5, ed. S. Fiaschi (2005).

  • Notes:

    Filelfo studied under Gasparino da Barzizza (ca. 1370-1431) and later under Johannes Chrysoloras in Constantinople, where he became fluent in Greek with the help of his wife, Chrysoloras's daughter. While there he brought some 40 Greek manuscripts to Italy. In Florence he taught Dante's Commedia and became known for his popular morning and afternoon lectures on classical authors., His intention to gather manuscripts and produce translations endeared him to scholars like Theodore's Gaza (ca. 1400-75), who made him a copy of his manuscript of the Iliad. He translated Xenophon, Plutarch, and Pseudo-Aristotle among others into Latin, the only way to make their content available to a largely Greekless intelligentsia.  He published his own odes and satires and began an epic on the life and family of Francesco Sforza (1401-66) of Milan.

    Unfortunately Filfelo was highly opinionated and argumentative to the point that he quarreled with most of the scholars of Florence, especially Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) in his dispute with Lorenzo Valla (1407-57) and ultimately Cosimo de' Medici (1389-1464) over the future of classical humanism. Sandys characterized him as having "combined the accomplishments of a scholar with the insidiousness and the brutality of a brigand."  For Sandys, Filelfo defies the definition of a humanist. Filfelo helped reconcile Bracciolini and Valla but was obliged to move to Siena where he helped reconcile Valla and Bracciolini from a distance. He was invited to Rome i 1475 and back to Florence two years before his death. Wilamowitz rendered the harsh judgement that “he produced hardly anything of lasting value,” but the manuscripts he brought to Italy and his role in the efforts of contemporary scholars to make Greek authors accessible for a Latin audience was substantial. 

  • Sources:

    R.P. Niceron 42 (1741) 230-307; C. de Rosmini, 3 vols. (1808); C. Rosmini, Vita di Francesco Filelfo, (1808); G. Favre, Mélanges d’Histoire littéraire I (1856) 9-146; Nisard, 1-115; El 15 (1932) 281 with further literature; GG s.v. ; E. G. Bianchini, "Francesco Filelfo,"  Notizie biografiche e bibliografiche (1899); Sandys, 2:55; Pfeiffer, HCS 2:48; E. Garin, History of Italian Philosophy, 1:187-9; M. Robin, Filelfo in Milan. Writings 1451- 1477, (1991);] P. Viti, DBI, 47 (1997)  613-26; Wilamowitz, 24; Nikolaus Thurn, Brill, 199-200.

  • Author: Ward Briggs