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– a period from about 1350-1600 during which western Europeans experienced a
profound cultural awakening, and signaled the start of the modern time
- derived from the Latin word “Rinascere” which means “to be reborn”
- also came from the French word meaning “Rebirth”
- rediscovered and repopularized Greek and Roman classics
- many dramatic changes occurred during this time in the fields of Philosophy, Art,
Politics, and Literature
- held an emphasis on enjoying life and the world around you

- most significant intellectual movement of Renaissance
-a philosophy that was characterized by its blending of the concern of the history
and actions of all human beings and their influence in the world, with religious duty.
-The central focus of Renaissance Humanism was, quite simply, human beings.
- Pioneers of Renaissance Humanism were inspired by the discovery and spread of
important classical texts from ancient Greece and Rome which offered a different
vision of life and humanity than what had been common during previous centuries
of Christian domination.
-The starting point for the Humanism of the Renaissance was Italy.
- due to the ongoing presence of a commercial revolution in the Italian city-
states of the era. At this time, there was a tremendous increase in the
number of rich individuals with disposable income that supported a luxurious
lifestyle of leisure and arts. The earliest humanists were the librarians,
secretaries, teachers, courtiers, and privately supported artists of these
wealthy businessmen and merchants.
- Italy’s obvious connection to ancient Rome. Italians of the time felt
themselves to be the direct descendants of the ancient Romans, and thus
believed that they were the inheritors of Roman culture — an inheritance
which they were determined to study and understand. Of course, this study
led to admiration which, in turn, also led to imitation.
-Again, because this was their cultural inheritance and a link to their past, it was of
the utmost importance that the material be found, preserved, and provided to
-One consequence of the development of humanist philosophy during the
Renaissance was the increased emphasis on the importance of education. People
needed to learn ancient Greek and Latin in order to even begin to understand the
ancient manuscripts. As a result, there was a burst of scientific and technological
development during the Renaissance unlike anything seen in Europe for centuries.
Early on this education was limited primarily to aristocrats and men of financial
-Over time, however, the courses of study were adapted for a wider audience — a
process which was greatly hastened by the development of the printing press which
led to the dissemination of more information to the public
Humanism vs. Medieval Thoughts
Humanism Medieval
Every person has respect and worth and Considered life to be sinful and should be
should therefore command the respect despised and that people should only be
of every other person concerned about their duty to God and
the afterlife
Classical idea of seeking fulfillment in People should expect little comfort from
daily life earth
Influenced art as a want to portray the Influenced art as a spiritual quality that
world realistically in a natural state, with focuses on the deep religious meanings
life-like people showing real emotions of their works of art and not concerned
with making their artwork look life-like
Used a courtier system, separate city Revolved around monarchy and nobility
states, ruled by the most powerful in ties with feudalism
merchant in the city state
Translated works of literature to their Literature were written in Latin and only
language, printed books and made the rich and educated have access to
literature accessible to the public these knowledge
Challenged long accepted traditions, Had a pattern of peace and wars
assumptions, and institutions

Pioneers of Humanism
* Francesceo Petrarca or Petrarch (1304-74)
- an Italian poet who applied the ideas and values of ancient Greece and Rome to
questions about Christian doctrines and ethics which were being asked in his own
- had realistic, critical, and more often than not, satirical poetry
-wrote 36 sonnets (short peoms) that express his love for a woman named Laura
who died during the Black Death
* Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 –1375)
- best known for his work of art, Decameron, which consists of 100 stories organized
to give impression of a total view of the society
- gave accurate depictions of real life characters and situations
*Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571)
- a goldsmith and sculptor by trade
- wrote the first modern autobiography
- encouraged anyone who had done anything of excellence “to describe their life
with their own hand” as he had
*Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)
- made a literary achivement through political science
-Wrote “The Prince”, a treatise in which he analyzed the politics in Renaissance
Italy, particularly for Prince Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI
- advised rulers to be prepared to use force and decit to maintain power
-analyzed human actions rather than spiritual issues
-focused on the selfish side of human nature more than on humanity’s potential for
*Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406) and Leonardo Bruni (1369-1444
- became chancellors of Florence in part because of their skill in using Latin in their
correspondence and speeches, a style which became popular as part of the effort
to imitate the writings of antiquity before it was deemed even more important to
write in the vernacular so as to reach the wider audience of common people.
-worked to develop new ways of thinking about Florence’s republican traditions and
engaged in a great deal of correspondence with others to explain their principles.

-The most important thing to remember about Renaissance Humanism, however, is

that its most important characteristics lie not in its content or its adherents, but in
its spirit. To understand Humanism, it must be contrasted with the piety and
scholasticism of the Middle Ages, against which Humanism was regarded as a free
and open breath of fresh air. Indeed, Humanism was often critical of the stuffiness
and repression of the Church over the centuries, arguing that humans needed more
intellectual freedom in which they could develop their faculties.
-Sometimes Humanism appeared quite close to ancient paganism, but this was
usually more a consequence of the comparison to medieval Christianity than
anything inherent in the beliefs of the Humanists. Nevertheless, the anti-clerical and
anti-church inclinations of the humanists were a direct result of their reading
ancient authors who didn’t care about gods, didn’t believe in any gods, or believed
in gods who were far and remote from anything that the humanists were familiar