Faculty Books

Angelo Poliziano: Letters (vol. 1)

Angelo Poliziano (1454–1494) was one of the great scholar-poets of the Italian Renaissance and the leading literary figure of the Age of Lorenzo de’ Medici, “il Magnifico.” His correspondence gives us an intimate glimpse of the revival of classical literature from the pen of a man at the very center of the Renaissance movement.

This volume illuminates his close friendship with the philosopher Pico della Mirandola and includes much of the correspondence concerning the composition and reception of his Miscellanies, a revolutionary work of philology. It also includes his famous and moving letter on the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici. This volume contains the first modern edition of the Latin text and the first translation of the letters into English.


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This volume comprises original contributions from 17 scholars whose work and careers Ronald Witt has touched in myriad ways. Intellectual, social, and political historians, a historian of philosophy and an art historian: specialists in various temporal and geographical regions of the Renaissance world here address specific topics reflecting some of the major themes that have woven their way through Ronald Witt’s intellectual cursus. While some essays offer fresh readings of canonical texts and explore previously unnoticed lines of filiation among them, others present “discoveries,” including a hitherto “lost” text and overlooked manuscripts that are here edited for the first time. Engagement with little-known material reflects another of Witt’s distinguishing characteristics: a passion for original sources. The essays are gathered under three rubrics: “Politics and the Revival of Antiquity”; “Humanism, Religion, and Moral Philosophy”; and “Erudition and Innovation.”


The intellectual heritage of the Italian Renaissance rivals that of any period in human history. Yet even as the social, political, and economic history of Renaissance Italy inspires exciting and innovative scholarship, the study of its intellectual history has grown less appealing, and our understanding of its substance and significance remains largely defined by the work of nineteenth-century thinkers. In The Lost Italian Renaissance, historian and literary scholar Christopher Celenza argues that serious interest in the intellectual life of Renaissance Italy can be reinvigorated—and the nature of the Renaissance itself reconceived—by recovering a major part of its intellectual and cultural activity that has been largely ignored since the Renaissance was first “discovered”: the vast body of works—literary, philosophical, poetic, and religious—written in Latin.

Produced between the mid-fourteenth and the early sixteenth centuries by major figures such as Leonardo Bruni, Lorenzo Valla, Marsilio Ficino, and Leon Battista Alberti, as well as minor but interesting thinkers like Lapo da Castiglionchio the Younger, this literature was initially overlooked by scholars of the Renaissance because they were not written in the vernacular Italian which alone was seen as was the supreme expression of a culture. This lack of attention, which continued well into the twentieth century, has led interpreters to misread key aspects of the Renaissance. Offering a flexible theoretical framework within which to understand these Latin texts, Celenza explains why these “lost” sources are distinctive and why they are worthy of study.

What will we really find among the Latin texts of the Renaissance? First, Celenza contends, there are a limited number of intellectuals who deserve a place in any canon of the period, and without whom our literary and philosophical heritage is diminished. Second, and more commonly, this literature establishes the intellectual traditions from which such well-known vernacular writers as Machiavelli and Castiglione emerge. And third, these Latin texts may contain strands of intellectual life that have been lost altogether. A groundbreaking work of intellectual history, The Lost Italian Renaissance uncovers a priceless intellectual legacy suggests provocative new avenues of research.


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From the Archaic period to the Greco-Roman age, the figure of the wanderer held great significance in ancient Greece. In the first comprehensive study devoted to this theme, Wandering in Ancient Greek Culture unearths the many meanings attached to this practice over the centuries. Employing a broad range of literary and philosophical texts, Silvia Montiglio demonstrates how wandering has been conceptualized from Homer’s Odysseus—the hero “who wandered much”—in the eighth century BCE to pagan sages of the early Roman Empire.

Attitudes toward wandering have evolved in accordance with cultural perspectives, causing some characterizations to persist while others have faded. The status of wanderers in Greek societies throughout history, for example, varied from outcasts and madmen to sages, who were recognized as mystical, even divine. The positive connotations of the activity became more prominent beginning with the fourth century BCE, owing especially to the Cynic philosophers. Examining the act of wandering through many lenses, Wandering in Ancient Greek Culture addresses questions such as: Why did the Greeks associate the figure of the wanderer with the condition of exile? How was the expansion of the world under Rome reflected in the connotations of wandering? Does a person learn by wandering, or is wandering a deviation from the truth? In the end, this matchless volume shows how the transformations that affected the figure of the wanderer coincided with new perceptions of the world and of travel, and invites us to consider its definition and import today.


Pyrrho, His Antecedents, and His Legacy Cover

Richard Bett presents a ground-breaking study of Pyrrho of Elis, who lived in the late fourth and early third centuries BC and is the supposed originator of Greek scepticism. In the absence of surviving works by Pyrrho, scholars have tended to treat his thought as essentially the same as the long subsequent sceptical tradition which styled itself “Pyrrhonism.” Bett argues, on the contrary, that Pyrrho’s philosophy was significantly different from this later tradition, and offers the first detailed account of that philosophy in this light. Bett considers why Pyrrho was adopted as the figurehead for that tradition. Bett also investigates the origins and antecedents of Pyrrho’s ideas; in particular, Plato is singled out as an important inspiration. The result is the first comprehensive picture of this key figure in the development of philosophy. The new claims that Bett puts forward have major implications for the history and interpretation of ancient Greek thought.


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What did Antony want with Cicero’s hand?

Hundreds perished in Rome’s Second Proscription, but one victim is remembered above all others. Cicero stands out, however, not only because of his fame, but also because his murder included a unique addition to the customary decapitation. For his corpse was deprived not only of its head, but also of its right hand. Plutarch tells us why Mark Antony wanted the hand that wrote the Philippics. But how did it come to pass that Rome’s greatest orator could be so hated for the speeches he had written?

Charting a course through Cicero’s celebrated career, Shane Butler examines two principal relationships between speech and writing in Roman oratory: the use of documentary evidence by orators and the ‘publication’ of both delivered and undelivered speeches. He presents this fascinating theory that the success of Rome’s greatest orator depended as much on writing as speaking; he also argues against the conventional wisdom that Rome was an ‘oral society’, in which writing was rare and served only practical, secondary purposes.


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This volume sheds light on the transitions in the intellectual life of Renaissance Florence in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Its point of departure is a hitherto unedited Latin text, the Symbolum Nesianum, whose original version was written by Giovanni Nesi, a follower of the famous Platonist Marsilio Ficino and then of the austere, fiery reformer, Girolamo Savonarola.

The first part of the book presents a lengthy introductory study that illuminates the text’s cultural context. The second part offers a critical edition, translation, and commentary for the text. The book will be of use to historians and to all scholars interested in the culture of the city often called the cradle of the Renaissance as it underwent one of its most difficult times.


Rome’s transition from a republican system of government to an imperial regime comprised more than a century of civil upheaval and rapid institutional change. Yet the establishment of a ruling dynasty, centered around a single leader, came as a cultural and political shock to Rome’s aristocracy, who had shared power in the previous political order. How did the imperial regime manage to establish itself and how did the Roman elites from the time of Julius Caesar to Nero make sense of it? In this compelling book, Matthew Roller reveals a “dialogical” process at work, in which writers and philosophers vigorously negotiated and contested the nature and scope of the emperor’s authority, despite the consensus that he was the ultimate authority figure in Roman society.

Roller seeks evidence for this “thinking out” of the new order in a wide range of republican and imperial authors, with an emphasis on Lucan and Seneca the Younger. He shows how elites assessed the impact of the imperial system on traditional aristocratic ethics and examines how several longstanding authority relationships in Roman society—those of master to slave, father to son, and gift-creditor to gift-debtor—became competing models for how the emperor did or should relate to his aristocratic subjects. By revealing this ideological activity to be not merely reactive but also constitutive of the new order, Roller contributes to ongoing debates about the character of the Roman imperial system and about the “politics” of literature.


Sextus Empiricus 2000 Cover

This volume contains a new translation of Against the Ethicists, together with an introduction and extensive commentary. Those who have discussed this work in the past have tended to underestimate it, regarding its main position as essentially the same as that of Sextus’s better-known Outlines of Pyrrhonism. Richard Bett shows that this text proposes a distinct and previously unnoticed philosophical outlook, associated with a phase of Pyrrhonian Scepticism earlier than Sextus himself.


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Renaissance Humanism and the Papal Curia offers first a general introduction to the life and work of Lapo da Castiglionchio. Then a facing-page translation of and commentary on Lapo’s complicated treatise, De Curiae Commodis, are offered. These illuminate both the text itself as well as Lapo’s own situation and the humanistic era that De Curiae Commodis addresses.

Born into a family of the feudal aristocracy in 1406, Lapo da Castiglionchio as an adult was a practitioner of the new art of humanism. A student and friend of noted humanist Francesco Filelfo, Lapo long sought admittance to the powerful circle at the Vatican’s pinnacle. He failed in that goal but left us a document full of valuable details about the workings, goals, and interests of the papal curia. In the year he died, Lapo wrote the treatise De Curiae Commodis. This work is written elegantly, learnedly, and angrily. It is a human document alive with information for intellectual, social, and cultural historians.