Leonardo Bruni and Biography: The Vita Aristotelis.
A concern of the recent literature has been to determine just how Brunian biography can be distinguished from its classical and medieval varieties. One answer to that question is offered by Edmund Fryde. Fryde presents the Aristotle as exemplifying -- in the biographical mode -- the critical approach to the sources that is often singled out as the hallmark of Bruni's involvement with history writing as a whole. Bruni is thus credited with "critical judgement" in handling a wide range of source materials. (4) He is praised for having made "very few factual mistakes." (5) His methods are sound and anticipate those of modern scholarship. His results concerning the life of Aristotle have indeed been largely "confirmed by modern scholars." (6) In Fryde's view then, the Vita Aristotelis should be seen as the forerunner of scholarly biography, where critical tools are brought into play to establish factually accurate accounts of past lives.
Independent confirmation of Fryde's thesis comes in part from James Hankins. Hankins too stresses "the critical approach to his sources" as the key to Bruni's innovation with respect to ancient and medieval biography. Indeed, in the Vita Aristotelis, "we find in embryo many of the techniques of later historical scholarship." (7) Like Fryde, Hankins also points to the wide range of sources consulted by Bruni as another sign of his superiority over previous biographers. (8) It must be noted, however, that Hankins differs from Fryde in several important respects. He is keenly aware, for example, of what he calls the "hagiographic" character of Bruni's portrait of Aristotle. (9) In writing the Vita Aristotelis Bruni was no impartial scholar: he was a declared partisan with a stake in Aristotle's reputation. From the beginning Bruni had made the re-evaluation of Aristotle one of the pillars of his literary career. (10) His translation of the Nicomachean Ethics (1416-17) created a stir of controversy, and from that time forward he found himself obliged to defend his views on many fronts. Hankins notes that Bruni's views amounted to a fundamental re-orientation with regard to what might be called the medieval Aristotle. Bruni's Aristotle was no longer the master of logic and dialectic familiar to the schools; he was rather being proposed as the best guide to life in the secular city, the author of treatises on how to regulate human society according to rational principles. Bruni's translations accordingly made Aristotle speak a new language, a language accessible not only to specialists but to the wider audience of educated lay people as well. (11) It was Bruni's conviction that Aristotle had written eloquently on a range of subjects of public interest, but that he had been badly served by his medieval translators. (12)
Bruni thus saw himself as bringing into view a new Aristotle, one whose teachings had remained hidden since antiquity, but which would now become available to serve as guideposts. As Hankins points out, such a passionate commitment on Bruni's part could hardly fail to have an impact on the Vita Aristotelis. Bruni's mission as biographer was to re-fashion Aristotle's image into a likeness that would be in keeping with his new role. If Bruni's portrait "at times approaches the hagiographic, it is because Bruni needed to defend his Aristotle against the attacks of contemporary humanist detractors." (13) To a large extent then, Bruni's Aristotle should be seen as an extension of his battle to re-define Aristotle's position within western culture. (14) As if by way of confirmation, the work recycles and gives definitive form to many of the arguments Bruni had already previously developed in support of his theses. (15)
These are important indications that can serve as our point of departure. They also raise a question that needs to be clarified from the outset: how can the tactical choices inspired by Bruni's partisan stance be reconciled with the conventional view -- held in varying degrees by all of the authorities (16) -- that the distinguishing mark of Brunian biography is its adherence to rigorous standards of critical scholarship? There is of course an easy way out of this dilemma. Hankins, for example, sees no real contradiction: engagement and critical commitment are perfectly compatible, indeed "advances in historical technique, in the fifteenth century as in the twentieth, are frequently the children of controversy." (17) There is much to recommend this statement. Bruni's critical skills were certainly sharpened by the challenge of bringing to light an improved image of Aristotle. Yet it is also true that the image had to represent an improvement, in the sense that it had to show a high degree of conformity with w hat Bruni deemed appropriate. Hankins himself notes the somewhat specious argument mounted by Bruni to counter rumors of Aristotle's suicide by poison. (18) But many other examples could be given to illustrate how Bruni quite deliberately manipulates the sources in order to deliver just the picture of Aristotle that he wants to convey.
One convenient example concerns the story of how Aristotle chose his successor. As related by the chief classical source, Aulus Gellius, the tale goes as follows. (19) When he was on his death-bed, Aristotle's disciples came to ask that he name a successor. Aristotle called for wine from Lesbos, and another from Rhodes. Tasting them, he declared both to be excellent, but proclaimed that from Lesbos to be superior. No one doubted that he had thereby named Theophrastus (of Lesbos) his successor, giving him preference over his nearest rival Eudemus (of Rhodes). (20) This story, which is meant to illustrate Aristotle's tact, is faithfully relayed by medieval writers, including Walter Burley. (21) What is striking about Bruni's version is that he has modified the tale to suit his own purposes. Instead of Aristotle clearly signaling his preference for Theophrastus, Bruni has him simply saying that both wines -- Lesbian and Rhodian -- are excellent, thus no successor is named. The lines immediately following indicat e the reasons behind Bruni's intervention: certain of Aristotle's disciples were quite offended at having been passed over; one of these, Aristoxenus, sought revenge by spreading malicious rumors about the master after his death. (22) Bruni's source for the latter piece of information -- the Suda -- posited a close causal connection between the choice of Theophrastus and the reaction of Aristoxenus. (23) By playing down, and even eliminating the choice altogether, Bruni was in effect reducing any responsibility Aristotle might be seen to have had in sowing the seeds of discord among his followers.
Bruni was thus quite willing to take liberties with the sources, and did so wherever he thought gains could be made for Aristotle's reputation. This does not necessarily mean that Bruni is therefore to be disqualified as a critical historian. On the contrary, Hankins is right: we often find Bruni using the new techniques of critical scholarship to achieve his ends. What must be admitted, however, is that Bruni is not consistent: alongside the most sophisticated tools of critical enquiry, we find him also having recourse to the crudest forms of deliberate distortion and manipulation of sources. What this suggests is that the analysis of a work like the Vita Aristotelis cannot be carried out exclusively on the basis of analogies with modern methods of critical scholarship. It is worth considering whether it would not be more appropriate to approach the work from a different perspective, one broad enough to encompass not only its critical aspects, but its falsifications as well. A way forward is that suggested b y Hankins: it lies in returning to the origins of the Vita Aristotelis itself, to the circumstances within which the work was elaborated, the purposes for which it was written. By building on such elements it may well become possible to understand the deeper workings of Brunian biography, and to establish what was really novel about it with respect to earlier biographical traditions.
A useful starting point concerns the question of what might be called textual dialectics. Bruni did not write biography -- or for that matter, history -- in a vacuum: each of his principal biographies addressed a specific text, in a dialectical spirit. The aim was to contest the established, or incipient canonical status of a rival text. Thus Bruni's Vita Ciceronis (1415) is directed against, and intends to supersede, Plutarch's Cicero, or more precisely the Latin translation of it executed in 1401 by Jacopo Angeli da Scarperia (1360-1410/11). (24) Bruni's life of Dante (1436) is meant to refute, or at least to offer an alternative to the portrait sketched by Giovanni Boccaccio in the so-called Trattatello. (25) Against which established text then did Bruni intend to direct his Vita Aristotelis? Once the answer to this question is found, we shall be in a better position to begin unraveling the various threads relating to the interpretation of the work.
The case of the Vita Aristotelis differs in one important respect from that of the other Brunian biographies mentioned above. In both the Cicero and in the Dante Bruni is quite explicit regarding his intentions: he names and criticizes Plutarch in the first instance, and Boccaccio in the second. In the Aristotle, on the other hand, Bruni offers no explicit identification of the target text. This fact has led one scholar to look further afield. Citing a wellknown letter of Bruni to Poggio Bracciolini, (26) Paolo Viti has suggested that Bruni's target was the so-called Vita latina, a medieval translation of a Greek life of neo-Platonic origin. (27) But there are problems with this hypothesis. It is true that Bruni refers to the Vita latina in the letter to Poggio, and that he severely criticizes its contents. On the other hand, Bruni's letter is a response to one now lost from Poggio. It was Poggio who had raised the issue of the Vita latina, thus prompting Bruni's remarks. Bruni condescended to discuss the Vit a latina only when forced to respond to Poggio's queries. It is crucial to note that Bruni does not mention the Vita latina where one would most expect it: in his formal preface to the Vita Aristotelis. If the Vita latina really is the target text, Bruni's failure to name it in this context is inconsistent with his usual practice as exemplified in the Cicero and in the Dante. A further problem arises when we consider the tenor of Bruni's remarks to Poggio. Bruni does not speak of the Vita latina as deserving of any particular status: it has neither tide nor author, and is merely referred to as a batch of notes, or "commentaria." In fact, Bruni's whole discussion in the letter to Poggio presupposes the allocation to the Vita latina of the lowly rank of a source to be exploited, rather than the more exalted one of authority to be contested. What Bruni is explaining to Poggio is really why he did not make greater use of the information contained in the Vita latina. The letter is akin to others in Bruni's Epistol ario: a footnote hors texte, (28) a disquisition on the question of sources which, given Bruni's rhetorical conception of biography, could ill be accommodated within the body of the Vita Aristotelis itself.
The target text is by its very definition a prestigious text written by a recognized auctor. In the case of Bruni's Aristotle, its determination is best conducted on the basis of the formal preface to Cardinal Niccolo Albergati (1375-1444). Bruni's reticence itself provides valuable testimony, for if the text is not mentioned in this prime location, it must not yet be widely available. We must therefore assume that it is still, in 1429, known only to a few. It is not a Latin text, for Bruni brushes away all possible competitors in this language with a sweeping dismissal. (29) We should look then primarily neither to John of Wales, nor to Walter Burley, nor to the Vita latina. The text we are seeking is by process of elimination a Greek text, of considerable antiquity and authority, not widely known in the West, yet possibly about to become so, though Bruni himself is quite unwilling to promote the further spread of its fame.
The text is of course the Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius. As Bruni was certainly aware, his nemesis Ambrogio Traversari (1386-1439) had undertaken to translate this work into Latin late in 1424. (30) It was an unusual move for Traversari to make, given his devotion to patristic literature, and the deep distrust he nourished in regard to the study of pagan authors on their own terms. (31) Traversari disapproved of too ardent an attachment to pagan philosophy. He was among those who were shocked by the proposition that underlay Bruni's version of the Nicomachean Ethics, the proposition that the teachings of a pagan philosopher could stand forth alone as a valid guide to moral behavior. (32) Conflict flared up in 1417 with a violent exchange of polemics on the value of the monastic life. (33) Thenceforth Bruni and Traversari were at odds, with the battle lines clearly drawn. More fuel was added to the flames when Bruni broke openly with his former friend turned foe Niccolo Niccoli (1364-1437) . It was in fact Niccoli, backed by Cosimi de' Medici and others, who approached Traversari with the request that he turn his hand to the translation of the Lives of Diogenes. (34) Traversari was reluctant; he preferred to invest his time and energy in the translation of his beloved Greek fathers. He finally accepted, partly to please his powerful friends, partly in the belief that the portrait gallery of Diogenes would discredit the pagan philosophers by showing them as they really were: dissolute in morals and inconsistent in their doctrines, largely because they lacked the light of the true faith. (35)
It would be wrong to read too much into Traversari's acceptance of the commission. He certainly did not agree to translate Diogenes solely so as to gain more leverage in his ongoing battle with Bruni. On the other hand, one can hardly fail to be struck by a coincidence: the very moment when Traversari ceded to the pressures applied by Niccoli and others -- November, 1424 -- also marked a high point in the tensions between the two camps. (36) As we shall see in a moment, the text of Diogenes recycles a good deal of gossip and scandal; the portrait of Aristotle in particular is riddled with damaging allegations. It is thus perhaps reasonable to assume that by accepting to translate such a work Traversari was also grasping a golden opportunity to strike yet another blow against Bruni and his ilk. Nor should we forget that the Bruni-Traversari standoff had wider ramifications. Behind Traversari stood Niccoli and Cosimo de' Medici. The mid-to-late 1420s were witness to a polarization into opposing philosophical ca mps as well, with Bruni opting ever more exclusively for Aristotle, and Traversari, Niccoli, Cosimo and others gravitating towards Plato, a philosopher whose doctrines were seen as more compatible with Christian theology. (37)
Traversari's labors on the text of Diogenes Laertius were one of the talking points of learned Italy in the 1420s. His progress with the translation is well documented in the Epistolario, and has been carefully studied. (38) Years of toil were to come to fruition in 1433 when Traversari finally published his version of Diogenis Laertii De vita et moribus philosophorum libri decem, with a dedication to Cosimo de' Medici. From the present point of view, however, it is important to note that in the late 1420s Traversari's translation was already rumored to be nearing completion. One sign of the eagerness with which the work was awaited in some quarters is the letter of Tommaso Parentucelli, the future Pope Nicolas V, to Niccolo Niccoli, 4 June 1428, asking Niccoli to forward a copy of Traversari's Diogenes if it is complete. (39) Parentucelli may well have been speaking in part for himself, but more likely than not he was chiefly expressing interest on behalf of his employer. (40) At the time, in fact, Parentuce lli exercised the role of secretary to Cardinal Niccolo Albergati, thought by many to be in line to become the next Pope.
In 1428 then, Bruni had ample reason to be alarmed. His opponents appeared to be on the verge of scoring a major coup. Influential circles were primed and poised to pounce upon the Larinized Diogenes Laertius the minute it was finished. Why this should have been a cause of concern to Bruni will immediately become apparent if we consider in greater detail the portrait of Aristotle as delineated by Diogenes in the Lives. To begin with, Diogenes portrays Aristotle as an ungrateful pupil: "He seceded from the Academy while Plato was still alive. Hence the remark attributed to the latter: 'Aristotle spurns me, as colts kick out at the mother who bore them."' (41) Next, Diogenes relates several stories concerning Aristotle's stay at the court of the tyrant Hermias. One of these stories was that Aristotle was the lover of Hermias. (42) Another, told by Aristippus, had Aristotle so madly in love with a concubine of Hermias that he made sacrifice to her, as if she were one of the gods. (43) Aristippus also related tha t Aristotle composed a hymn in praise of Hermias, which Diogenes faithfully reproduces in full. (44) Diogenes also reproduces an epigram of Theocritus of Chios, in which Aristotle is accused of lasciviously dwelling with Hermias, all the while lifting hymns of praise to the tyrant. (45) According to Diogenes, these very accusations lay behind the charges later brought against Aristotle in Athens at the end of his life. (46) Diogenes has him fleeing Athens in disgrace, without having answered his accusers, then committing suicide by taking poison at Chalcis. (47)
Diogenes transmits this information and much more. His account is laced with alternative versions. (48) His Lives should be regarded as a great collection of lore, catalogued and passed on almost in its raw state, the wheat with the chaff, the slander and innuendo with the solid facts. (49) The shrewd reader quickly learns how to pick a way through the labyrinth. But such considerations could hardly comfort Bruni. What remained crucial from his point of view was that the life by Diogenes contained previously unavailable information, the release of which would cause irreparable damage to Aristotle's reputation. This is the same as to say that Bruni's campaign to establish Aristotle as the leading authority in the realm of moral and civil philosophy was in danger of being toppled. The status that Bruni was proposing for Aristotle required personal credentials of an impeccable kind. The man had to fit the measure of his doctrine. (50) If Aristotle were projected through ancient and authoritative sources as lasci vious, weak, a friend of tyrants, and a disgrace to his country, then Bruni's cause was bound to suffer a significant setback. The only option was to seize the high ground. Bruni had to produce a polished biography of Aristotle of his own. He had to produce it quickly and get it into circulation in the right places before the appearance of Traversari's Lives by Diogenes could begin to wreak havoc. Bruni's Aristotle had to address openly and in advance the dark spots that dotted Diogenes' portrait. The skeletons in Aristotle's closet had to be deactivated before they began to dance.
It thus becomes clear why at this particular moment -- 1429 in all probability -- Bruni took the unusual step of writing an extended, monographic account of the life of Aristotle. It also becomes clear why he dedicated the work to Cardinal Albergati, the man rumored to be next in line for the papacy. (51) Bruni knew that the Roman curia was the key to winning acceptance for his view of Aristotle. He had dedicated his translation of the Nicomachean Ethics to Pope Martin V; later he would dedicate his translation of Aristotle's Politics (1437) to Pope Eugenius IV. Albergati's circle, we remember, had already shown a keen interest in obtaining the earliest possible copy of Traversari's Diogenes. The cardinal's entourage was likely to be among the very first recipients of the translation when it was finally completed. It was thus logical that Bruni should target Albergati in the first instance.
How he came to gain access to the cardinal can also be explained. Albergati was the patron of Francesco Filelfo (1398-1481), at that time a young and promising humanist scholar freshly returned from a long stay in Constantinople. Filelfo was also an admirer of Leonardo Bruni, and soon became an avowed Aristotelian in the Brunian mold. It was only natural that the two -- Bruni and Filelfo -- should enter into a cordial epistolary relationship, which soon blossomed into a warm friendship when Filelfo arrived in Florence in April of 1429. (52) Contrary to what many have written, (53) Filelfo did not dedicate his translation of Aristotle's Rhetorica ad Alexandrum, completed in 1429, to Cardinal Albergati. This work was dedicated to another powerful figure in the curia, Cardinal Carrillo de Albernoz (1384-1434). (54) To Albergati, Filelfo later dedicated his translations of the Numa and Lycurgus of Plutarch, and the Agesilaus and the De re publica Lacedaemoniorum of Xenophon. (55) Be that as it may, several things are clear. First of all, Filelfo maintained close contact with Albergati after coming to Florence, a fact also borne out by his Epistolario. (56) Secondly, Filelfo was Bruni's associate in what might be termed the Aristotelian offensive of the late 1420s. (57) Thirdly, Filelfo's choice of works to dedicate to Albergati suggests the cardinal nourished a particular taste for biography. Bruni acknowledged the cardinal's interest in biography in his preface to the Vita Aristotelis. (58) While it would be tempting to see here an allusion to the above-mentioned efforts on Albergati's behalf to obtain a copy of Traversari's Diogenes, it seems equally likely that such information could have come to Bruni through Filelfo.
Bruni's preface to the cardinal makes clear his intentions in writing the Vita Aristotelis. The work is meant to present information that will reinforce Aristotle's reputation as a philosopher among men of rank. (59) In practice this means deflating in advance the damaging portrait drawn by Diogenes by showing that it has no grounding in fact. Bruni's Vita Aristotelis is accordingly structured in such a way as to refute point by point the accusations listed against Aristotle by Diogenes. The first of these points is one Bruni disposes of in words strongly resembling those used in the Vita latina: (60) Aristotle did not betray his master Plato; he left the Academy only after Plato's death. The next set of accusations -- those concerning Aristotle's stay at the court of Hermias -- contained allegations that were more serious. The Vita latina did not deal with the Hermias episode at all. Bruni found himself here locked in a closed dialogue with Diogenes. Diogenes' string of statements (V, 3-4) can perhaps best b e listed schematically as follows, with his quoted source in brackets: a) Aristotle was the lover of Hermias (no source); b) Hermias bound Aristotle to himself by ties of kinship, giving to him his daughter or his niece in marriage (Demetrius of Magnesia, Poets and Writers of the Same Name); c) Aristotle fell head over heels in love with a concubine of Hermias, and in the madness of his passion made sacrifice to her (Aristippus, On the Luxury of the Ancients); d) Aristotle composed a hymn of praise to Hermias (also Aristippus, hymn given by Diogenes, V, 7-8); e) Theocritus of Chios confirms a) (61) and d) in an epigram (Ambryon, On Theocritus, epigram given by Diogenes, V, 11), where he blames Aristotle for tarrying at the court of an unworthy tyrant, ensnared by a vile passion.
The following observations can be made concerning the list of charges. First of all they contain a kernel of truth, which all modern biographers accept, i.e., that Aristotle stayed for three years at the court of Hermias, and that he composed a hymn in his honor. (62) Secondly, however, there are several traditions surrounding the reasons for Aristotle's stay and for his apparent attachment to Hermias. One tradition stems from sources unfavorable to Aristotle and states that he stayed with Hermias for reasons of gross sensuality inspired either by Hermias himself or by one of his concubines. (63) This is the tradition variously relayed by Aristippus (64) and by Theocritus of Chios. Another tradition, favorable to Aristotle, says that he married into the family of Hermias, thus creating a tie it was his duty to honor by his presence. Demetrius of Magnesia represents this alternative tradition.
With regard to Bruni, it is best to consider first how he treats the kernel of truth. He admits Aristotle's three-year stay at the court of Hermias, but nowhere does he mention the hymn written for the tyrant. The omission is serious. The hymn to Hermias is well attested and accepted even by those modern biographers most favorably disposed towards Aristotle. As Diogenes does not fail to note (V, 6), the hymn was the chief reason for the accusations later filed against Aristotle in Athens. (65) The fact that Diogenes reproduces the hymn in full (V, 7-8) makes Bruni's silence even more eloquent. It is impossible to avoid concluding that here Bruni deliberately tried to bury an important and well-documented piece of information solely because it told so heavily against his man.
The situation is somewhat different in regard to the list of reasons given by Diogenes for Aristotle's attachment to Hermias. Here Bruni was presented with a range of options. It can hardly be surprising that he chose to follow the one most favorable to Aristotle, i.e., that indicated by Demetrius of Magnesia. His presentation of the alternatives is masterful, for he introduces the story of Aristotle staying with the tyrant because he was in thrall to mad passions as nothing more than a lie spread by his detractors. (66) Proof of this is offered in the form of a reasoned argumentation: if Aristotle really had such a reputation for debauchery, how could we explain that Philip of Macedon called him to his court shortly thereafter, and confided to him the education of his only son, Alexander? (67)
It remains true of course that Bruni relegates to oblivion the story of Aristotle's love affair with Hermias. Perhaps there is some justification for this, especially in view of the enormity of the charge and its lack of an attributable source in Diogenes. But the failure even to mention either this matter, or the hymn to Hermias, means that Bruni must take some considerable liberties in reporting the contents of the epigram of Theocritus. (68) Bruni's decision not to confront the issue of Aristotle's hymn to Hermias had other consequences as well. It meant, for example, that when it came to relating the charges brought against Aristotle in Athens at the end of his life, Bruni was unable to do more than to cite generic impiety as the cause. (69)
Bruni's presentation of the Hermias episode creates a mixed impression. On the one hand, we find him omitting information he regards as unfitting or damaging. In at least one case -- the hymn to Hermias -- the omission appears to be motivated by no other rationale than that of trying to improve Aristotle's image. This particular omission forced Bruni into other silences or distortions, a price he showed himself more than willing to pay. But the overall picture is not entirely negative; Bruni also deserves credit. He rightly identifies certain pieces of information as belonging to traditions of biography unfavorable to Aristotle. (70) He addresses the question of Aristotle's rumored debauchery in an extraordinary series of considerations couched in the first person. (71) The use of the first person is indeed significant. It signals a major intervention on Bruni's part. It also gathers the threads of the narrative into Bruni's own hands. The first person serves as a springboard for a chain of affirmative reason ing, the technique Bruni prefers to use at certain critical points. It is in fact not so much a process of scholarly source criticism that comes into play at such times. No new material is cited; no alternative authorities are brought in to support the case being put. Bruni rather achieves his effect through the very personalized reordering and resequencing of the material he has found in Diogenes. The procedure is more akin to a rewriting of Diogenes Laertius into a new register of biography, where the original text is demoted to the level of a collection of disparate materials to be plundered and exploited at will.
Such observations are borne out by the other major incident from Diogenes that Bruni thought to be in need of recasting: Aristotle's death. The importance in biography of a proper and decorous death need hardly be stressed. Particularly for a philosopher, an appropriate death constituted a key component of any claim to subsequent doctrinal credibility. (72) Diogenes again on this score embraced a tradition unfavorable to Aristotle: he cites Eumelus, Book Five of the Histories, on Aristotle's death by suicide (V. 6). In addition, Diogenes himself repeats this tale in an epigram of his own making, where he presents Aristotle as drinking poison to escape his accusers (V, 8). As so often in the Lives, however, Diogenes also offers an alternative version of Aristotle's death, based on the Chronology of Apollodorus (V, 10). According to this version, Aristotle died a natural death. Bruni therefore was once again presented with a choice, and could thus with impunity opt for the latter. But the prominence given by Di ogenes to the tale of Aristotle's suicide, the gravity of the charge, and the importance of the issue, all forced Bruni to do more. Once again then we find Bruni addressing the question directly, and having recourse to first-person forms of argumentative reasoning similar to those encountered in regard to the Hermias connection. (73) Needless to say, Bruni mentions Aristotle's suicide only to deny it as a malicious rumor. The basis for the denial is again a chain of plausibility constructed around other information contained in Diogenes. Why would Aristotle have removed from Athens to Chalcis, if his intention were to take poison? Might he not just as easily have done so in Athens? Secondly, if Aristotle was intending to commit suicide, why does his will begin with the words "All will be well"? James Hankins has pointed out the weakness of this second argument; (74) Bruni was certainly aware of the formulaic nature of the greeting. It is instructive in this instance to see him reaching out for forms of proof which ate unconvincing, in all likelihood even to his own eyes. Again too there seems to be no real attempt on Bruni's part to push his research beyond the elements he had readily available in the account of Diogenes. There is, however, a claim lodged to this effect. Indeed the prior chain of largely circumstantial considerations actually forms the basis for Bruni's final statement: his decision to side with "the more numerous and reliable authors" who relate that Aristotle died a natural death. (75) Textual authority is thus brought into play as a last resort to bolster a sagging argument, but there is no sign given that Bruni had actually done any homework on the question. On the contrary, all indicators point to this final statement as being a rhetorical flourish meant to silence any doubts that might be lingering in the mind of the reader.
A chief characteristics of Bruni's Vita Aristotelis, then, is that it appears to have been designed to refute the controversial or downright embarrassing features of Aristotle's career as told by Diogenes Laertius. Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of Bruni's work is its almost total reliance on the information assembled by Diogenes. All the authorities referred to at the outset of this article make much of what they claim is a wide selection of source materials on Bruni's part. (76) Yet there is really relatively little in the Vita Aristotelis that Bruni could not have found ready to hand in Diogenes. In particular, the portions of the work dealing with Aristotle's life-story (i.e., roughly half of the whole) are mostly drawn from Diogenes, with only an occasional addition of information from the Suda, (77) the Vita latina, (78) Aulus Gellius, (79) or Plutarch. (80)
The distortion in the previous critical literature may well have to do with the type of interpretative paradigm being applied. The supposition has often been that Bruni was working in a manner that prefigured modern scholarship, therefore his sources had to be representative. But the foregoing study suggests that a different paradigm may well be in order. Bruni's intention is to rewrite Diogenes; his manner of proceeding is more in the way of a rearrangement of the miscellaneous hodge-podge of information that Diogenes hands down. The occasional insertion of information derived from elsewhere does not fundamentally alter this picture. Bruni's technique in the Vita Aristotelis is essentially akin to that described by Anna Maria Cabrini in her classic study of the Historiarum florentini populi libri XII: (81) it presupposes the adoption of a source text to be transcended -- be it Diogenes, or in the case of the Historiae, Villani -- together with a subsidiary set of texts to be utilized as required. The main te xt is of course used selectively and with a great deal of freedom, given that the whole sense of Bruni's operation moves in the direction of procuring its declassement to the level of mere source book. The role of the subsidiary texts is to provide occasional items of information used to round out and complete the picture desired.
The ultimate result of this process is what might be termed polished, or rhetorically elaborated biography. Alongside omission, rearrangement, and the occasional insertion of supplementary information, Bruni uses a further technique in his treatment of the material contained in Diogenes, and this technique involves rhetorical reinforcement. It is perhaps in this last category that Bruni's intentions can be seen at their clearest. For here it is not a question of altering the version of things as related by Diogenes; it is rather a question of strengthening the points Bruni himself wants to make. Indeed information subjected to this kind of treatment becomes something more than mere information. It acquires a new status as meaning, and translates therefore into a more vivid picture of the subject.
Several examples can be taken straight from the first paragraph. The very first line of Diogenes simply states that Aristotle was born at Stagira.
Bruni uses the same incipit, but adds a qualifier, to the effect that Stagira would be an obscure place, were it not for the fact of Aristotle's having been born there. (82) Such embellishment was of course a standard feature of high rhetorical treatment, and immediately signals the essentially laudatory character of Bruni's work. (83) So does the treatment of Aristotle's lineage. Again, where Diogenes limits himself to the bald listing of the facts, Bruni feels it incumbent upon himself to amplify in several ways: 1) the family line passes down to Aristotle "continuata certissimaque successione"; :2) Aristotle's father was a powerful and influential figure at the Macedonian court ("multum et gratia et opibus in regno potuerat"); 3) Aristotle's mother too was of high lineage. (84) None of this is untrue. The elements had already been laid out by Diogenes. Bruni, however, has extrapolated from the facts to emphasize the purity of Aristotle's lineage and the distinguished position held by his family in society. Examples could be cited all the way through the work. Bruni systematically applies the techniques of rhetorical amplificatio. (85)
What is striking, too, is that the Vita Aristotelis appears to proceed along this track at least partly by following the rhetorical precepts laid down by Aristotle himself. Just two of the many examples that could be cited concern the structure of the section on mores et domestici usus, and the comparison of Aristotle with Plato. In the Art of Rhetoric, I, ix, 18-19, Aristotle offered the following advice to one who would compose a eulogy: praise should be especially focused on things done by the subject not for himself--a mark of rank selfishness -- but for the sake of others. Bruni's section on the mores et domestici usus of Aristotle is accordingly structured around the humanitas of the man, as demonstrated by his many acts of kindness towards his country, his friends, his family, his disciples, in fact towards the entire human race. (86)
To some extent, this tack appears to be an elaboration of a theme already contained in the Vita latina. (87) Moreover, as Quintilian too makes the same recommendation, (88) it is impossible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the strategy originates with Bruni's reading of Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric. The latter though may well have inspired Bruni to open the final section of his work by comparing Aristotle to Plato, and to resolve the comparison in Aristotle's favor. (89) In the Art of Rhetoric, in fact, Aristotle advises that a most effective way to praise the subject is to compare him with illustrious personages, "for it affords ground for amplification and is noble, if he can be proved better than men of worth." (90)
A question that arises at this point concerns just where Brunian biography is situated in relation to earlier biographical traditions. The question is far from resolved in the literature. Current scholarly views run the full gamut of classical options: there are those who propose Suetonius as Bruni's model, (91) while others point to Plutarch. (92) It has even been proposed that Diogenes Laertius himself provided Bruni with a pattern for writing the life of a philosopher. (93) This last option is less far-fetched than it may at first sound. In developing his counter-portrait of Aristotle, Bruni locked himself into a close dialogue with the text of Diogenes. It was only natural that the resulting work should reflect the organizational principles of its primary target, most notably in the major division between life and doctrine. (94) On the other hand, Bruni's whole enterprise -- as we have defined it -- involved relegating Diogenes to source book status. Diogenes in fact represented an entirely respectable tr adition in biography, that of late classical collectors of various lore. Biography in this tradition is more akin to assembling an archive. Information is collected, catalogued, and referenced for the use of scholars. (95) Bruni's challenge to Diogenes derives its force from an entirely different biographical ethos, where the intention is not to collect and hand down, but rather to work raw information up into a highly polished portrait. What we have in the Vita Aristotelis is not so much a piece of scolarship as a smoothly constructed narrative written from a partisan perspective. (96) Bruni's exit from the realm of scholarly biography leads him to disregard most of the staple features of the Laertian biographical paradigm: he does not provide apothegms or homonyms, nor does he even bother to list the works one by one. (97) In this sense Bruni was most unlike his counterpart across the Apennines, Guarino Guarini (1374-1460), whose Vita Platonis of the same period respected to the letter the categories of bio graphical writing exemplified by Diogenes. (98)
In regard to the structure of Bruni's biography, Suetonius constitutes a promising model for consideration. It has been rightly remarked that the Vita Aristotelis adopts an organization "per species," and that the divisiones that clearly demarcate Bruni's text reflect Suetonian principles. (99) Thus Bruni's first section comprises a rapid overview of Aristotle's life, followed by a second section devoted more thematically to the man's mores et domestici usus. This second section, however, has a much freer style of arrangement than one usually finds in Suetonius. Where the latter lists qualities according to an abstract code of virtues and vices, (100) Bruni proceeds on an entirely different basis. Bruni's arrangement in this section reflects not a desire for completeness, but rather the same adherence to selectivity that we have noted before. The controlling theme is that announced in the preface to Albergati and reiterated at the beginning of the section: it is essentially the illustration of the many servic es Aristotle performed for our benefit and that of humanity as a whole. (101) The value-driven, selective, and frankly apologetic account that results seems worlds removed from the impassive and ironical tones of a Suetonius.
The best authority on the biographical principles underlying the Vita Aristotelis is without a doubt Bruni himself. Yet it is not so much where we might expect to find his most pertinent comments -- in the preface, for example -- that we must look, but rather elsewhere, in Bruni's defense of the work in the face of the criticism it immediately drew from certain contemporaries. Particular attention needs to be paid to Bruni's letter to Poggio Bracciolini, published as VI,3 in the Epistolario. (102) This letter is undated, but from its position and its obvious affinity with other letters -- VI, 2 and X, 17, the latter rightly reclassified as VI, 4 by Luiso -- it is possible to place it sometime in 1430, certainly after 13 April, the date of VI, 2. (103) The letter to Poggio is thus posterior to the composition of the Vita Aristotelis, indeed it presupposes Poggio's having already read and commented upon the work in question. (104) From the tenor of Bruni's letter -- its abrupt beginning, and defensive tone -- o ne gathers that Poggio's comments contained criticism along with formal praise. (105) Because of Poggio's influential position in the curia, the very milieu the Vita Aristotelis was supposed to operate upon, Bruni felt it necessary to respond comprehensively to Poggio's objections. Indeed, Bruni intended his remarks to Poggio as a public statement on the character of the Vita Aristotelis. He thus took the unusual step of forwarding a copy of the letter to Cardinal Albergati, a move meant to counter any negative innuendos that might reach the cardinal's ears. (106) In other words, Bruni wanted to make sure that his particular approach to biography was fully understood and appreciated by the audience for whom it was intended. The letter to Poggio was meant to be, and became, a sort of informal preface, which often accompanied the Vita Aristotelis in the manuscript tradition. (107) As such, it deserves to be analyzed with care, almost line by line.
Poggio's letter is lost, but its contents can be reconstructed from Bruni's, which is essentially a response. Poggio's comments stem from his reading Bruni's Vita Aristotelis in conjunction with the medieval Vita latina. Poggio's main criticism of Bruni's work was that it failed to take into full account some of the important points highlighted in the Vita latina. These points included in particular the following: 1) Aristotle's supposed three years of study under Socrates; (108) 2) the altar to Plato erected by Aristotle; and 3) the epigram on Plato written by Aristotle in memory of his master. (109) The fact that Bruni had made no mention of any of these well-known facts struck Poggio as unjustifiable, and seemed to him to indicate that Bruni had not had access to the Vita latina. What Poggio mainly objected to therefore was the lack of completeness of Bruni's portrait of Aristotle.
Bruni's response stressed first of all that, contrary to what Poggio supposed, he knew the Vita latina, and had made a thorough study of it. The results of this study had led him to conclude that the Vita latina, which he refers to by the somewhat contemptuous term of "commentaria," or raw notes, was absolutely worthless as a source of information on Aristotle's life. Bruni's justification for the low esteem in which he holds the work is to be found in its erroneous affirmation that Aristotle had been a pupil of Socrates. Plainly absurd, says Bruni, given that fourteen years separate the death of Socrates from the birth of Aristotle. (110) The situation in regard to the other two issues raised by Poggio is somewhat different. The reasons for not mentioning either Aristotle's shrine to Plato, or his epigram, arise not 50 much from their not being true, or at least probable, as from their being far too common and therefore unworthy of inclusion. (111) In the final analysis, only what is worthy of notice should be related in biography, and only the unusual or extraordinary qualifies as worthy of notice. (112) The substantial part of the letter concludes with an important statement: Poggio (the reader) should not think that because some item of information regarding Aristotle is missing in the Vita Aristotelis that Bruni was therefore ignorant of it; each single fact related has been carefully weighed up; nothing has been included that was found to be false, undignified, or inept. (113)
The letter to Poggio is the best statement we have concerning Bruni's theory of biography. Bruni's view of the genre differs significantly from the grammatical strain of classical biography to which both Suetonius and Diogenes ultimately belong. What counts for Bruni is not the systematic collection and handing down of indiscriminate bodies of information. It is rather the verification, selection and arrangement of previously compiled facts into a portrait that will be rhetorically effective. Biography of this kind also had its precedents, and one thinks immediately of Plutarch, for whom biography was to be distinguished from history largely on the grounds of its greater selectivity. (114) Bruni was of course an admirer of Plutarch. The Vita Aristotelis circulated in manuscripts containing Bruni's translations from Plutarch, and finally came to constitute part of the Latin Plutarchan corpus first published in 1470. (115) Yet one would hesitate to apply the term "Plutarchan" to Bruni's treatment of Aristotle: neither the form nor the substance of the work show any real parallels with Plutarch's Lives -- et pour cause. The latter have a dramatic intensity, and a sustained line of development that reflect the essentially moral and educational character of Plutarch's enterprise.
Bruni's Vita Aristotelis derives its inspiration from an entirely different rationale, which goes back to the need to defend Aristotle in the face of the damaging allegations about to be made public through the translation of Diogenes Laertius.
In the end it seems safest to conclude that Bruni's approach to biography represents a highly original blend of several classical strands. The novelty of the Vita Aristotelis is perhaps most evident if we compare the work to medieval biographies of the philosopher. These tend to follow the pattern laid down by the accessus ad auctorem tradition of the schools: they are meant primarily to serve as companions to the study of the author's works, and as such contain only the briefest of sketches, where the life is presented in accordance with abstract criteria. There usually follows a list of the author's dicta, and a catalogue of the works, often with generous extracts or summaries. (116) Bruni respected none of these standard codes. His Aristotle is no longer a remote classical sage spouting eternal wisdom, nor is the life presented as a mere appendage to established doctrine. Instead, Bruni used the information provided by Diogenes to elaborate an extended, deliberately partisan portrait of Aristotle the man. He used the tools of selection, omission, manipulation, and rhetorical amplificatio (but also those of conjecture and source criticism) to contextualize Aristotle's life, to give it a three-dimensional quality that moved in the direction of a "life and times" approach. (117) It is as if the need to override Diogenes Laertius led Bruni to break through to a new level of biographical writing, where the life stoty of Aristotle the philosopher suddenly freed itself from the chains of scholastic categorizations.
But the shift into new territory was not a gratuitous one; it was driven by immediate imperatives, most obviously the need to launch a pre-emptive strike against the imminent publication of a Latinized Diogenes Laertius. In a sense, Aristotle's life had to be subjected to a new treatment, if Bruni's rescue operation were to be carried out successfully. Bruni's view of Aristotle as the teacher of the good life on this earth -- the view Bruni had pioneered in his translation of the Nicomachean Ethics and elsewhere -- thus may be said to have resulted nor only in the redesigning of Aristotle's life story, but also in the development of a new form of biography to sustain it. To be sure, the transformation was probably less sudden than might at first appear. Changes were under way within the late medieval tradition as well, and Bruni most certainly worked out of trends set by earlier Italian humanists such as Petrarch and his Florentine followers. (118) Yet the shock value of what he had accomplished in the area o f biography was nor lost on contemporaries, not even on those who fancied themselves to be anti-traditionalists, such as Poggio. (119)
In the end it is not the accuracy of Bruni's portrait of Aristotle that is most striking, nor is it the critical or scholarly character of the work. What distinguishes the Vita Aristotelis is the level of engagement, the personal commitment with which Bruni re-elaborated his materials -- in total freedom -- to fashion the picture of Aristotle he required. The very contingency of Bruni's portrait may have weighed heavily on its future viability, yet that should not blind us to the ultimate consequences of what had occurred. At virtually a single stroke, the stakes had been raised: biography -- mote specifically the biography of men of letters and culture -- acquired an urgency which it retains to this day.
(1.) The date of composition suggested by Baron, in Bruni, 1928, 174, has gained general acceptance.
(2.) I refer to Fryde, 1988, and to the editions by Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 283-92, and Viti, in Bruni, 1996, 501-29. The Hankins edition, 386-87, supplies lacunae and variants in the only previous modern edition with any pretension to completeness, During, 168-78.
(3.) One precedent is Bruni's own Vita Ciceronis (1415), on which see now lanziti. The development of the genre from the twelfth-century accessus ad auctorem to the fifteenth-century humanist life story is traced by Ghisalberti. On the important distinction between serialized, reference biography and the monographic form, see Madelenar, 21-23, Parke, 40, 111-24.
(4.) Fryde, 1988, 286.
(5.) Ibid., 287.
(7.) In Bruni, 1987, 263.
(8.) Ibid., 262.
(9.) Ibid., 263-64.
(10.) See, for example, Bruni, 1994, 246-47.
(11.) Hankins, 1994b, 156.
(12.) On all of these points, see the lucid remarks of Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 201-08, 259-62.
(13.) Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 264.
(14.) Further insights into these points can be gleaned from Fubini, 1989, 458-73, and now Fubini, 2001, 31-43, 104-19.
(15.) One example can be found in Bruni's letter, IV, 22, written, according to Luiso, 1980, 102, in 1424-26: compare Bruni, 1741, 1:138, with the almost identical passage in the Vita Aristotelis, Bruni, 1996, 524-26. In both passages Bruni cites Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric, III, 8, 4-6, as proof of the latter's commitment to eloquence. The earlier citation incidentally shows that Bruni had access to a copy of Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric before Filelfo brought it to Florence in April, 1429. The latter event cannot therefore be used, as Fryde, 1988, 286, had hoped, to date the composition of the Vita Aristotelis. Bruni's source for the Art of Rhetoric was in all likelihood Giovanni Aurispa, on whose possession of the manuscript see Bigi, 595, and especially Aurispa, xvii, 15, 18, 20.
(16.) Others who share this view include During, 178, and Viti, in Bruni, 1996, 503.
(17.) Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 263.
(18.) Ibid., 385.
(19.) Gellius, 2:387 (Book XIII, chap. 5).
(20.) Marshall, ibid., notes that Gellius himself appears to have mistakenly substituted one Menedemus for Eudemus in his retelling of the tale. For the probable origins of the story see During, 346. Bruni, 1996, 516, has Menedemus, as Hankins acknowledges in Bruni, 1987, 385, 387.
(21.) Burley, 246, also has Menedemus in the place of Eudemus; so too does John of Wales: Petoletti, 326-27. On John's Compendiloquium see Swanson, 167-93.
(22.) Bruni, 1996, 516: "Hoc eius iudicium persapiens erat, er cautum pro evitanda ceterorum discipulorum invidia fuit.... Nec tamen ca cautela vitare potuit quin aliqui perinde quasi non recte spreti ab eo atque posthabiti offenderentur, quorum unus Aristoxenus fuisse creditur, ur postea scriptis eius deprehensum est."
(23.) Suidae Lexicon, 1, pt. 1, col. 730.
(24.) Bruni, 1996, 416.
(25.) Ibid., 537-38. Bruni correctly cites Boccaccio's work by its actual title: Della vita, costumi, et studii del clarissimo poeta Dante. See Ricci, in Boccaccio, 437, 848. Ricci, 426-30, dates the first version of the work in 1351-55, the second version in 1360.
(26.) Bruni, 1741, 2:41-42 (VI, 3).
(27.) Viti, in Bruni, 1996, 503. See Luiso, 1980, 113, for elements which allow the identification of Poggio's "commentaria" with the Vita latina published by During, 142-63. During, 164-67, also shows how the Vita latina formed the basis for the medieval lives by Walter Burley and John of Wales.
(28.) For another example, see Bruni, 1741, 1:115-17 (IV, 7). On the uses of footnotes hors texte, see Grafton, 1994, 70-71, and now 1997, 140.
(29.) Bruni, 1996, 504: "Ego igitur hanc partem summi yin, ignoratam prius a nostris atque obscuram, in lucem prodere constitui." See too the pertinent comment by Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 384, and his rationale for reading nostris in the place of During's omnibus, 386.
(30.) Gigante, 382. On the enmity between Bruni and Traversari, see Gualdo Rosa, 1987, and now Field, 1118-20. As the latter makes dear, the account of Vespasiano, 1:453-58, must be taken with considerable caution.
(31.) On Traversari and patristics see Gigante, 384, 394, as well as Stinger, 145-46, and Sottili.
(32.) Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 370-71, and 1994a, 60, is probably correct in seeing Traversari's right-hand man, Demetrio Scarano, as the "Demetrius" to whom Bruni addressed his letter IV, 22: Bruni, 1741, 1:137-40. Gualdo Rosa, 1987, 97, makes the same inference.
(33.) Traversari attacked Bruni in the prefatory letter to his translation of John Chrysostom's three books Adversus vituperatores vitae monasticae of 1417: Epist. XXIII, 6, in Traversari, 2:961-62. Bruni's Oratio in hypocritas, an attack on monasticism, was directed against Traversari: Gualdo Rosa, 1987, 92-98; Hankins, 1994a, 59-60.
(34.) Traversari to Niccoli, 16 March 1424: "Notavi quae de Laertio traducendo ... me admonuisti" (Epist. VIII, 1, in Traversari, 2:349-51 at 351; dated by Luiso, 1899, 74).
(35.) See Traversari's dedicatory letter to Cosimo de' Medici (8 February 1433) as edited and published by Gigante, 398-400, together with the latter's comments, 393-98.
(36.) A frequently cited example is Traversari to Niccoli, 25 May 1424, with its stinging criticism of Bruni's translation of Plato's Phaedrus (Epist. VIII, 8, in Traversari, 2:366-71 at 370). Equally disparaging are the remarks concerning Bruni in Traversari to Niccoli, 21 June 1424 (Epist. VIII, 9, in Traversari, 2:371-73). These include contemptuous references to the Historiae florentini populi, as well as to Bruni's proposed project for the third set of Baptistery doors. Traversari and Bruni were of course direct rivals in this latter affair: see Krautheimer, 159-68, who notes that relations between Bruni and Traversari reached their all-time low in the spring of 1424.
(37.) On Traversari's penchant for Plato see Gigante, 433-34. Both Gualdo Rosa, 1987, 104-05, and Field, 1118-28, give a political dimension to the conflict; Hankins, 1994a, 64-81, is more cautious on this point.
(38.) Most recently in detail by Gigante, 377-89.
(39.) Epist. XXV, 3, in Traversari, 2:1045-47 at 1047: "Sique Laertium ad integrum convertit in latinum, oro fac, ut habere possim." For the date of this letter, which is crucial to my argument, see Gigante, 389, Sottili, 7. Traversari's initial progress on the translation was rapid, as can be seen in his letter to Leonardo Giustiniani, 5 August 1425: after less than nine months of work he had reached Book X, Epicurus (Epist. VI, 27, in Traversari, 2:310; dated by Luiso, 1899, 75). Problems cropped up at this point, however, and in a letter to Niccoli of the following year Traversari complained bitterly of his difficulties: "Incidi in scopulos. Epicurus iste ita me obtundit, ut desperatione fere destirerim" (Epist. VIII, 17, in Traversari, 2:380; dated by Luiso, ibid.).
(40.) De Toth, 2:460-62, stresses the difficulty of disentangling Parentucelli's sphere of activity from that of Cardinal Albergati in this period.
(41.) Diogenes Laertius, 1995, V, 2. See Traversari's translation of the same passage in Laertius, 1490, fat. fv (r): "Recessit a Platone dum adhuc superviveret. Unde dixisse illum tradunt: Aristoteles in nos recalcitravit non secus atque in matrem puli geniri." See also the manuscript in Traversari's own hand, Biblioteca Laurenziana, Strozzi, 64, fol. 57r, as well as the final manuscript version, Biblio. Laur., Plut. LXV, 21, fol. 79v.
(42.) Diogenes Laertius, V, 3. The Hicks translation, Laertius, 1995, 1:447, skirts the issue: "there is one story that he was on very affectionate terms with Hermias." The original Greek, however, leaves no room for doubt: Aristotle is branded as the tyrant's paidika. See the Gigante translation, in Laerzio, 164: "Alcuni dicono che Aristotele fu il suo amasio." Traversari's rendering, Laertius, 1490, fol. fv, sinks in the knife: "Deinde ad Hermiam eunuchum profectus est, Atarnensium tyrannum, quem alii quidem paedica ipsius fuisse tradunt." See the identical manuscript readings: Biblio. Laur., Strozzi, 64, fol. 57r; Biblio. Laur., Plur. LXV, 21, fol. 80r.
(43.) Diogenes Lacrtius, 1995, V, 4.
(44.) Ibid., V, 7-8.
(45.) Ibid., V, 11.
(46.) Ibid., V, 5.
(47.) Ibid., V, 6, 8.
(48.) Moraux, 1955, 146-49.
(49.) Gigante, in Laertius, 1976, xx, sees Diogenes as "un raccoglitore di norizie biografiche e dossografiche," thus "la sua opera non immune da confusioni, ripetizioni, contraddizioni."
(50.) On the general point see Minnis, 102-03. For Bruni's reiteration see his Oratio in nebulonem maledicum, in Bruni, 1996, 354: "Atqui hec ego duo simul ab homine studioso exigenda maxime puto, primum ut doctrina polleat fructusque studiorum suorum plutimus conspiciatur; deinde ur vitam his, que legit et didicit, consentaneam presret."
(51.) On Albergati, besides the standard work by De Toth, see the still useful information compiled by Fantuzzi, 1:99-133, and more recently the brief account by Pasztor.
(52.) Filelfo dedicated his translation of Dio Chrysostom's eleventh discourse (maintaining that Troy was not captured) to Bruni; Bruni responded warmly with his letter of September-October 1428: Bruni to Filelfo in Bruni, 1741, 1:30-31 (V, 6). As Bertalot noted, 1:30, Bruni considerably toned down the cordiality of this letter after Filelfo's disgrace. For the original version, see Luiso, 1980, 108. The standard accounts of the Bruni-Filelfo friendship, 1429-34, are those of Rosmini, 1:29-55; Zippel, 215-53; and Adam, 122-38, but the whole issue needs to be examined afresh.
(53.) Most recently Adam, 482, and Viti, 622.
(54.) Gualdo Rosa, 1986, 277-79. It hardly needs to be pointed out that while the Rhetorica ad Alexandrum is no longer thought to be by Aristotle, Bruni and Filelfo never for a moment questioned the attribution. As Gualdo Rosa notes, Filelfo's preface reveals dose affinities with Bruni's views on Aristotle: see Aristotle, 1548, 3:337-38. On Cardinal Carrillo de Albernoz, see Strnad.
(55.) On the latter two translations, see Marsh, 91-93, 158-60; on the former, Giustiniani, 15-18. On all four, offered together to Albergati in 1432, see Resta, 20-21.
(56.) See Filelfo's letter to Albergati, 22 September 1432, in Filelfo, 1502, fols. 10v-11r.
(57.) Filelfo's enduring loyalty to Aristotle is neatly expressed in his letter of 29 March 1439 to George Scholarios: see Filelfo, 1892, 31-34: "j'ai depuis longtemps embrasse la doctrine du Stagirite; j'aime ses disciples et les defenseurs de la verite. Defendre Aristote et la verite, c'est a mes yeux une seule et meme chose." See in general Calderini, 266-78.
(58.) Bruni, 1996, 504-06: "Ad te vero potissimum hunc librum misi, quod iam pridem compertum habebam te inter maximas occupationes tuas lectione cognitioneque summorum virorum plurimum delectari."
(59.) Ibid., 506: "Notitia quippe rerum earum non dubito fore ut apud te et alios prestantes ingenio viros et auctoritas huius philosophi et amor augescat."
(60.) Bruni, 1996, 508. For similar statements in the Vita latina see the edition in During, 152, 154.
(61.) See During, 277.
(62.) Moraux, 1955, 137-40; During, 58-60, 276.
(63.) During, 281, 391-92.
(64.) More properly pseudo-Aristippus, as Aristippus is not generally thought to be the author of the work used by Diogenes.
(65.) Moraux, 1955, 144; During, 277.
(66.) Bruni 1996, 508: "Hanc eius moram nonnulli obtrectatores vehementer carpsere quasi parum philosopho congruentem, laceraturque hoc in loco maxime pro ancille cuiusdam amoribus pene insanis, quorum gratia illum desedisse apud Hermiam quidam scripsere." Bruni has nevertheless considerably toned down the accusation, substituting ancilla for the Greek pallakis, and not daring even to mention the weird rites of sacrifice. Compare Traversari's rendering, Laertius, 1490, fol. fv (v): "Porro Aristippus in primo de antiquis deliciis libro Aristotelem air Hermiae pellicem adamasse, quam ille cum sibi permisisset; duxisse earn er gaudio elatum immolasse mulieri, ut Athenienses Eleusinae Cereri." See also Biblio. Laur., Strozzi, 64, fol. 57r; Biblio. Laur., Plut. LXV, 21, fol. 80r.
(67.) Bruni, 1996, 508.
(68.) Ibid.: "Exstatque in eum epigramma nobile Theocriti Chii amarissimis sane verbis obscenitatem et desidiam illi exprobantis." But as During notes, 277, the epigram of Theocritus specifically targets the shameful nature of Aristotle's relationship with Hermias and its direct outcomes, i.e., the long stay and the hymn of praise.
(69.) Bruni, 1996, 510: Aristotle is accused "quod non recta de diis sentiret."
(70.) On these traditions see During, 384-95.
(71.) Bruni, 1996, 508: "Sed hec omnia ut falsa et ab obtrectatoribus ficta existimem, facit quod mox inde protinus in Macedoniam evocatus a Philippo et aliis rebus auctus honestatusque est, et Alexandra filio in disciplinam tradito maximam auctoritatem in regno promeruit. Nam illuc quidem adduci non possum ut existimem hominem minus integra fama in eo ipso tempore a prestantissimo rege aut tantopere appetitum evocatumque aut unicum tante spei filium huic potissime creditum. Et simul a Demetrio Magnesio scriptum reperio, necessitudinem quandam Aristoteli cum Hermia fuisse quod eius neptem in matrimonia haberet eoque veluti officio retentum penes illum fuisse." (Italics mine).
(72.) On Aristotle's death as an issue in his biographical tradition see Moraux, 1955, 142-46, During 348.
(73.) Bruni, 1996, 516-18.
(74.) Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 385.
(75.) Bruni, 1996, 518: "Cum illis igitur sentio qui morbo interiisse illum tradidere, qui et plures sunt et certiores auctores."
(76.) Fryde, 1988, 286; Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 262.
(77.) In the single instance quoted above, n. 23.
(78.) For the incident of the "Feast of Aristotle" supposedly still celebrated at Stagira: see Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 385.
(79.) Besides Gellius, XIII, 5 (above, n. 19), Bruni also cites from the letter of Philip of Macedon to Aristotle, Gellius, IX, 3: see Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 385-87. Both the letter and the tale are of course apocryphal. They were also widely known, and used by medieval biographers of Aristotle, e.g., Walter Burley, 236, 246.
(80.) Bruni uses Plutarch, Alexander, 52-55, in relating the Callisthenes episode and Aristotle's subsequent falling out with Alexander: see Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 385. As for the source of Bruni's assertion that Aristotle was believed to have plotted against Alexander after this incident, see Plutarch, Alexander, 77.
(81.) Cabrini, 247-49, but the whole article is relevant to the point being made.
(82.) Bruni, 1996, 506: "Aristoteles philosophus ex oppido fuit nomine Stagira, obscuro quidem per se nisi quod huius viri claritate refulsit."
(83.) Quintilian, III, vii, 10.
(84.) Bruni, 1996, 506.
(85.) One among many examples concerns the passage on Aristotle's appearance; see Diogenes Laertius, 1995, V, 1: "his calves were slender...his eyes small, and he was conspicuous by his attire, his rings, and the cut of his hair." Bruni's elaboration -- based on rhetorical principles to be found, for example, in Quinrilian II, vii, 12 -- stresses how Aristotle overcame his physical defects: "His two chief defects were his thin legs and small eyes. To compensate...he affected a somewhat more distinctive mode of dress, displayed rings on his fingers, and was quite particular about his physical condition and the cut of his hair. (Hankins translation, in Bruni, 1987, 285).
(86.) Bruni, 1996, 510: "Exstat eius humanitas atque dilectio in patriam, in suos, in familiam, in discipulos, in omne denique genus hominum quam paulo post singulatim prosequemur." Examples follow in each category.
(87.) See the edition by During, 153.
(88.) Quintilian, III, vii, 16.
(89.) Bruni, 1996, 518-20. The judgment in Aristotle's favor reverses the verdict handed down by St. Augustine, De civitate Dei, VIII, 4-12. Augustine's argument for Plato's superiority was accepted by humanists such as Guarino and Traversari.
(90.) I, ix, 39.
(91.) Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 263.
(92.) Viti, in Bruni, 1996, 503.
(93.) Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 263.
(94.) Ibid., where Hankins also enumerates Bruni's principal innovations in the doctrinal section.
(95.) "The classic description is that of Leo, 178: scholarly, or grammatical biography "gibt das Material in wissenschaftlicher Form" and renounces any pretension to style.
(96.) On the close relationship between biography and encomium, see Momigliano, 82-83.
(97.) For the Laertian paradigm see Moraux, 1955, 154.
(98.) Guarini, 1542, fols. 384r-84v (dicta Platonis), 385r-85v (homonyms). Guarino's listing of Plato's works is missing in the Basel edition, fol. 382v, which appears to be based on a faulty manuscript tradition: Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, lat. 5831 has the same lacuna. However, Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, lat. 5829 has the missing passage, fols. 310v-11r, beginning "Iam tempus exigit ut scriptorum a Platone numerum titulosque describamus." There follows a list, with descriptions of the contents of each work. It has been imperfectly reproduced from a Venetian manuscript by Sabbadini, in Guarini, 1915-19, 3:270-71, On Guarino's Vita Platonis see Fryde, 1983, 62-69; Hankins, 1987, 166-71. The work is usually dated April 1430 on the basis of the preface to Filippo di Giovanni Pellizzone: see Sabbadini, in Guarini, 1915-19, 2:88-90.
(99.) Hankins, in Bruni, 1987, 263.
(100.) Leo, 3; Townend, 82-84.
(101.) Bruni, 1996, 504: "Quanta nobis Aristoteles philosophus atque adeo generi Humano beneficia contulerit, et ad disciplinarum omnium lucem et ad virtutum morumque laudabilissimam comparationem, omnes intellegunt."
(102.) Bruni, 1741, 2:41-42.
(103.) Luiso, 1980, 112-14. As he notes, 113, the last words of Bruni's letter to Poggio refer to the Latter's request for a Pliny in Bruni's possession; see Bracciolini, 1:88 (Poggio to Niccolo Niccoli, 21 October 1429): "Item postula ab Leonardo primam Plinii pattern et historiam Virorum Illustrium, quam transtulit ex Plutarcho." The second part of this request is of interest to our discussion. Poggia may well have received a copy of Bruni's Vita Aristotelis together with the Plutarchan lives. The work is often grouped with them in the manuscript tradition; for some examples see Hankins, 1997, 34, 134, 142, 210.
(104.) This is clear from Bruni's letter to Tommaso Parentucelli, in Bruni, 1741, 2:186-87. For a different view, see Viti, in Bruni, 1996, 503.
(105.) See the rather brusque incipit, Bruni, 1741, 2:41: "Nichil opinor me juvissent commentaria illa tua de bibliothecis Germanorum eruta ad vitam Aristotelis componendam."
(106.) Bruni to Tommaso Parentucelli, in Bruni, 1741, 2:187: "Verum quia Poggius, qui eam vitam legerat, much de hoc scripsit ostendens se habere commentaria quaedam pertinentia ad illarum rerum notitiam, non alienum putavi, ut quae ad ilIum rescripserim cognosceas. Suspicor enim quae michi scripserat Poggius, eadem illa Domino Cardinali dixisse optima tamen fide, et sine ulla obtrectatione; sed tamen interesse putavi illum etiam cognoscere responsionem meam. Itaque exemplum litterarum cum his mitto."
(107.) Examples in Hankins, 1997, 5, 81, 136, 201.
(108.) See the edition in During, 152: "adhesit Socrati et moratus est cum eo tribus annis" As Fryde notes, 1983, 63, and 1988, 287, the legend died hard: see the remarks of John Argyropoulos, in his inaugural lecture in Florence on the first five books of the Nicomachean Ethics, 4 February 1457, printed in Mullner, 15, where Aristotle is said to have studied with distinction "sub praeceptore Socrate primo, deinde Platone."
(109.) For both 2) and 3) see the edition by During, 154-55: "Habuit autem multam dilectionem erga Platonem Aristotiles, et quod sit verum paret ex eo quod aram consecravit ei in qua scripsit ita: "Aram Aristotiles fundavit hanc Platonis, / viri quem non est conveniens malis laudare." (See Ficino, 1:770: "Aram Aristoreles hanc Platoni dicavit, uno quem nephas est a malis laudari.")
(110.) Bruni, 1741, 2:41-42.
(111.) Ibid., 42: "Huic ergo scriptori cam manifeste deliranti, ego aut de Platonis statua et epigrammate, aut de ceteris fidem praestem? Quanquam de statua quidem etsi maxime verum foret, vulgarior ramen ea res est, quam ut litteris mandare expediat." See Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric, 1, ix, 38-39; Quintilian, III, vii, 16.
(112.) Bruni, 1741, 2:42: "Non enim omnia in describenda vita stint congerenda, sed lila dumtaxat, quae notatione sunt digna."
(113.) Ibid.: "Haec igitur dixisse velim, quo intelligas me lente admodum et morose singula considerasse, quae in illius vitam conjeci, nec quicquam ponere voluisse, quod aut falsum, aut leve, aur ineprum censuerim." Truth, it will be noted, constitutes only one of the three main categories regularing inclusion, the others having to do with the rather nebulous concept of decorum. No doubt the latter dicrared Bruni's exclusion of the story of Aristotle's alarm clock, Diogenes Laertius, 1995, V, 16, on which see Moraux, 1951.
(114.) The locus classicus is to be found in Plutarch, Alexander, I, but Plutarch makes the point frequently: see Leo, 184-86; Gossage, 53-54.
(115.) Giustiniani, 42. Needless to say, the corpus also included Bruni's seven translations from Plutarch's Lives, namely Antony, Cato minor, Sertorius, us, Gracchi, Pyrrhus, Paulus Aemilius, and Demosthenes, plus Bruni's own Cicero.
(116.) For these points, see Ghisalberti, 14, 24. In regard to the life of Aristotle in particular, comparisons can be drawn with Vincent of Beauvais, 4:113-15 (Speculum historiale, Book III, chapters 82-88). Walter Burley shows the evolution towards a more articulated life story, but still devotes by far the greatest proportion of his treatment to the dicta Aristotelis and to a full listing of the works: see Burley, 234-50.
(117.) Bruni, 1996, 514: "Tempora quibus Athenis fuit inquieta porro difficiliaque fuere, primo ob timorem Alexandri post Thebas eversas civesque expostulatos, mox ob Antipatri suspitiones atque certamina." In other words, Bruni evokes the historical context as a lead-up to Aristotle's plight in the troubled city. The source may well be Plutarch, Demosthenes, 17-24, which Bruni had translated, along with the orations of Demosthenes.
(118.) Minnis, 112-14, 158-65. But the connections between Brunian biography and the Trecento practitioners requires further exploration. A useful point of departure are the studies of Martellotti, 3-26, 77-89, 424-56, 475-86. See now also Tanzini on the late Trecento biographer Filippo Villani.
(119.) On Poggio's anti-traditionalism see Fubini, 1990, 228, 260-63.
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