Renaissance Humanism to be an pundit movement typified by a revived interest in the classical world and also studies which focussed not on religion however on what that is to be human. Its beginnings went earlier to 14th-century Italy and such authors as Petrarch (1304-1374) who searched the end "lost" ancient manuscripts. By the 15th century, humanism had spread across Europe.

Humanists believed in the prominence of an education in classic literature and the promo of public virtue, that is, realising a person"s complete potential both for your own great and because that the great of the culture in which they live. The difficulty in defining humanism and its ever-evolving character have actually not impede it gift widely related to as the defining feature the 1400 to 1600 Europe and the really reason why that duration can be figured out as a Renaissance or "rebirth" the ideas.

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Defining Humanism

Humanism to be a term developed in the 19th century to explain the Renaissance idea that straight studying the works of antiquity was an essential part of a rounded education and learning (but no the only part). Indigenous this place came the idea the the study of mankind should it is in a priority together opposed to spiritual matters (which need not be neglected or contradicted through humanist studies). Important classic ideals i beg your pardon interested humanists included the importance of public and private virtue, Latin grammar, methods of rhetoric, history, conventions in literature and poetry, and also moral philosophy. This education and learning did not develop an all-encompassing ideology or worldview in that is adherents. Someone who had a humanist education might be a Catholic or a Protestant, for example, and also many students went on come study an extremely different branches of believed such together theology, law, or medicine.

The idea really took off that the old world had actually something very an useful to teach the human being of the 15th century.

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In modern times, the hatchet "humanism" has obtained a different meaning (a rational and non-religious means of life) and so to safeguard its initial purpose, when used to 1400-1600, the is frequently clarified together "Renaissance Humanism". That is important to remember, though, that Renaissance thinkers did no themselves usage the term humanism, and also neither go they agree on all subjects. Because of these troubles of definition, some chroniclers prefer to use the ax studia humanitatis, coined through the roman statesman Cicero (106-43 BCE) and revived by the Florentine scholar Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406). Studia humanitatis refers to studies which, quite than concentrating on spiritual matters, focus instead on what the is to be human, and an ext precisely, consider what is a virtuous individual in that is widest sense and also how might that individual fully participate in public life.

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The main aspects of Renaissance humanism include:

an attention in studying literature and art native antiquitya belief in the importance and power of education to create beneficial citizensthe promo of private and civic virtuea denial of scholasticismthe encouragement of non-religious studiesan emphasis on the individual and also their ethical autonomya belief in the prominence of observation, crucial analysis, and creativitya belief that poets, writers, and artists deserve to lead mankind to a far better way that livingan attention in the inquiry "what go it mean to be human"?


Six Tuscan Poets by Vasari
Minneapolis institute of arts (Public Domain)

Origins the the classic Revival

The humanist movement have the right to be traced earlier to a trio of Italian authors who lived before the Renaissance duration had also begun: Dante Alighieri (1265-1321 CE), Petrarch, and Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375). All 3 would receive new interest in their work during the Renaissance once they to be recognised together its establishing fathers. Dante to be the first, and his Divine Comedy (c. 1319), return a publication with a main message on exactly how to reach salvation, was a subtle transition from totally religious-focussed works to those considering humanity"s role in God"s universe. The Divine Comedy had numerous overtly classic elements, native the roman poet Virgil (70-19 BCE) acting together a overview to the many old historical numbers mentioned.

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Next come Petrarch, that was one equally spiritual man however in his work-related criticised some aspects of the Catholic Church such together its corruption and also excessive love the show. Petrarch garbage scholasticism i m sorry grimly hosted on come Church dogma and also created unlimited rounds of fruitless debate amongst scholars. The made probably his biggest contribution come the research of antiquity by recognize manuscripts which had end up being "lost" in obscure monastic libraries. Amongst his famous discoveries were several works and also letters by Cicero.

Greek scholars fled the collapsing oriental Empire & carried classical texts with them come Europe.

Petrarch believed that a new golden age of thought and also politics can be completed by return to the ideals the antiquity and by allow poets and scholars to command a change in education. His idea the the period in i beg your pardon he live was an intermediary period between antiquity and also this new dawn, what he dubbed disparagingly "a slumber" was latched ~ above by later on Renaissance thinkers and also did lot to foster the idea that the Middle eras was somehow a period of cultural darkness. Further, Petrarch"s work with old manuscripts motivated the scholarship the non-religious topics with humanity at its centre, and this became a legitimate activity for intellectuals. Consequently, Petrarch is frequently cited together the dad of humanism.

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Giovanni Boccaccio additionally searched the end "lost" manuscripts appropriate to antiquity. In addition, his Decameron (Ten Days), a arsenal of tales compiled between c. 1348 and 1353, appealed to later on humanists because it handle with daily human experiences in great detail. Bocaccio additionally created functions that were of good use come humanist scholars such together his Ancestry of the Pagan Gods.


Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Capitoline Museum) (CC BY-NC-SA)

All 3 of these writers promoted the usage of the Tuscan vernacular (at the very least in poetical works), and this at some point led to the dominance of Latin being challenged. Humanists, though, ongoing to favour Latin for academic purposes and modelled your Latin on the of Cicero because that prose and also Virgil for poetry. The come of the printing press in Europe in 1450 to be another an increase to the trio of authors mentioned over and the democratisation of knowledge. Renaissance humanism gave an excellent importance come invention, and here, again, Dante v his production of terza rima (poems created of stanzas of 3 rhyming lines) and Boccaccio"s innovative promo in written kind of the ottava rima (where stanzas are created of eight 11-syllable lines) fit that sentiment perfectly.

The classical Ideal

After the loss of Constantinople in 1453, plenty of Greek scholar fled the collapsing byzantine Empire and also brought timeless texts v them to Europe, specifically Italy. These to be a really welcome addition to the Latin messages scholars prefer Petrarch had discovered in monastic libraries. Consequently, through 1515 the functions of all significant classical authors were accessible in print. Looking at these works as a whole, one idea which especially interested Renaissance thinkers was virtus (virtue or excellence) and also civic duty. Petrarch had studied this fifty percent a century prior to but now the idea really took off that the ancient world had actually something very valuable to teach the human being of the 15th century. Renaissance humanists now wanted come use, analyse, and critique old sources to improve one"s windy life in company of the state. Theoretical knowledge was not enough, what was got from study had actually to be put right into practice for the great of the state and all who resided in it. Consequently, the an excellent question, what walk it median to be person that preoccupied Renaissance scholar provoked answers that contained religious, philosophical, scientific, and also artistic considerations.

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It this day seems quite odd that scholars took together an attention in old sources which could be taken into consideration outdated and also irrelevant to contemporary society. Because that humanist thinkers, though, antiquity, as seen in so many newly uncovered manuscripts, presented a fresh and vibrant alternative to the stagnant swimming pool of believed so jealously guarded by the medieval church. The brand-new horizons offered by this texts and the look at unbiased strategy of ancient scholars in discussing and explaining the people without any preconceived principles made the totality Renaissance process seem, like its really name indicates, an intellectual rebirth. Humanist scholars were no uncritical of old sources, top top the contrary, similar to many ancient thinkers, they approached any kind of subject with critical analysis. Further, to method a provided subject objectively, one have to be intellectually complimentary and with this idea come that the the free-thinking individual, one unrestrained by religious or politics bias. There were even those who assumed that God had provided humanity the people as a test, to do of that what castle will and also apply your virtue into making it a better place. In this way, humanism was not in the contrary to faith for many thinkers, but it did lead to the idea of a morally-autonomous individual, which in turn led come individualism.


16th Century CE Flemish publication Printer
The brothers Museum (CC BY-NC-SA)

There was yet another reason to admire the ancients: their eloquence of argument. Cicero was taken together the example par excellence the superb composing in Latin. Rhetoric - one more term the modernity has actually twisted out of all acknowledgment from that original definition - was then the art of presenting eloquent argument. Further, this to be not simply a trick come be used by scholars in their writing, this to be a tool to be offered in day-to-day life. In various other words, rhetoric is persuasion, and with persuasion come power. Rhetoric could end up being the means by i beg your pardon humanists spread their ideas, persuading anyone from a literate merchant to the ruler of a dukedom the theirs was the best method to be educated, live, work, and rule.

The spread out of Humanism

The print press aided spread humanist ideas from their beginnings in Italy to the north of Europe. Indeed, the most celebrated humanist scholar the his day to be Desiderius Erasmus that Rotterdam (c. 1469-1536). Erasmus thought that education and learning was the answer to the Catholic Church"s troubles (and no a radical Reformation). To this end, he compiled editions of classical authors and listed a brand-new Latin and Greek translate in of the brand-new Testament. Erasmus" spicy and critical examination of original texts to produce this, his textual analysis of present versions, and also his interest in philology would certainly be prominent on other Renaissance scholars.

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Although early on humanists were often Christians, the movement"s emphasis on crucial inquiry did lead to an unavoidable clash through Church authorities who depended upon mass and uncritical acceptance of secondhand interpretations the doctrine. That some humanist scholars became champions of pagan texts was one more bone the contention.


Desiderius Erasmus through Matsys
Quentin Matsys (Public Domain)

In the phibìc of Europe, humanist scholars were an ext interested in spiritual reforms compared to elsewhere, therefore their brand that humanism is frequently called spiritual Humanism. Sir Thomas much more (1478-1535), the English scholar and also statesman, was one figure in this movement. A defender that the Catholic Church versus the Reformists, he famously created Utopia in 1516 about an right society set on an imagine island. An ext likely plan the work as a thinly-veiled criticism the the regime of Henry VIII that England (r. 1509-1547), but its radical presentation of a society where everyone works for the common good and shares equally in its success rang a note of recognition in the psychic of humanist scholars elsewhere. The evident link through Plato"s Republic was another allude of favour through the classical-loving humanists.

A Humanist Education

Erasmus was vital in one other area: education and learning for everybody. It was all very well because that scholars to debate the ideals of education in theory but more practical offerings were essential to attain the humanist goal of widening education. Erasmus, therefore, wrote countless textbooks such together his hugely famous On Copia (1512), which taught students how to argue, revise texts, and also produce brand-new ones. His 1521 On writing Letters taught exactly how to best write letters, aim for particular audiences, and employ eloquent expressions. Erasmus even created guides for those wishing to create a school and compiled encourage syllabuses.

Humanists emphasised the importance of an education which covered the liberal arts of rhetoric, ethical philosophy, grammar, history, and also poetry. Physical exercise, as with in old Greece, was additionally considered an important part that a rounded education and learning that resulted in young civilization being able to realise your potential and become an excellent citizens. In addition, a humanist education continued for life, and it was never ever too so late to learn its benefits, particularly so because that rulers.

Humanism in Science

Observing, analysing, and categorising the world approximately us was crucial part the humanist thought, simply as that had remained in antiquity. For this reason, scientific research made good leaps forward throughout the Renaissance, powered at an initial by advancements in mathematics. The polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) proposed that the solar device was heliocentric, among other fix up ideas, in his On the changes of the Heavenly Spheres, published in 1543. Copernicus was a standard Renaissance scholar together he learned the functions of antiquity, it was observed what he could in the people personally, collated all that had actually been learned thus far in his field, and also then came up with a new view that the subject at hand. Maybe the greatest contribution humanism made to scientific research was that thirst for answers and the confidence the they can be discovered through person endeavour.


Humanism in the Arts

Rulers choose Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482 in Urbino and Cosimo i de" Medici (1519-1574) in Florence were an excellent admirers of antiquity and gathered impressive humanist libraries. They were, too, collectors of ancient art such as sculpture, sarcophagi, relief panels, and also coins. Both men likewise became great patrons of the arts, encouraging humanist artists. This to be a sample imitated by rulers across Europe.

Renaissance painters and sculptors became very interested in timeless mythology, sometimes even combining it through Christian themes such as subtly representing Venus together the Virgin Mary. Old thinkers were directly represented in art, perhaps most famously in the institution of Athens fresco in the Vatican through Raphael (1483-1520).

There was, too, an appreciation of the ability of ancient artists, particularly sculptors and their capacity to capture reality in copper or marble. Renaissance artists to be keen to capture this reality themselves, a process going ago as early on as Giotto (b. 1267 or 1277 - d. 1337) and also culminating v the hyper-realistic portraits by late Renaissance Netherlandish artists. Just like Renaissance writers, artists wanted not only to emulate the classic tradition but also to enhance upon it. Consequently, the correct usage of perspective became an ever-more an accurate endeavour because that Renaissance artists. Artists were likewise convinced the their old counterparts had actually somehow found mathematical keys of proportion, specifically related to the person body.

Artists currently gave emphasis to the human experience in their art. Portraits, for example, can include a classical publication next come the sitter to emphasise their humanist tendencies. Even religious works of the duration have a emphasis on the person figures and also their story in ~ the scene. Just as humanist writers knew complete well the powerful effect of your words, so, too, artists knew the strength they had to create a lasting aesthetic impression top top the viewer. Possibly there is no better example of this wow-factor than Michelangelo"s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Finally, the focus on the individual within humanism uncovered expression in the method artists now viewed themselves - exceptional artisans who offered their intellect to study art and create masterpieces the would lug their fame because that generations come come.


Humanism pervaded Renaissance architecture where structures were designed that were elegant, symmetrical, functional, and also harmonious v their surroundings, simply as they had been in ancient Rome. Above all, buildings displayed the timeless ratios that length and height.

Humanism, with its reverence for classic authors and also what exactly a expertise of classical times can teach us discovered expression in the power arts, notably in the plays of wilhelm Shakespeare (1564-1616) that was interested in personalities that might reveal the breadth and also depth the the human being experience. Shakespeare is not possibly taking any details side in the humanist debates presented in his works but he does, in ~ least, make complete masterly usage of that humanist power tool - language - to accomplish his effects.

The legacy of Renaissance Humanism

Humanism revolutionized education and also rejuvenated the world of ideas and art with its discovery, promotion, and adaptation of classic works. It led to the development of an global network that scholars linked by letters and books, the separation of church and also politics, the critical examination of texts resulting in the exploration of inaccuracies and also even forgeries, and the creation of publicly libraries.

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Perhaps inevitably, though, humanist scholars and thinkers began to division into groups as lock specialised into different areas of what was currently a hopelessly large area of human endeavour. There to be realists versus moralists, those that wanted come forget all around religion and those who did not, and those that were republicans and also those that were royalists. There were humanists who thought the examine of language an end itself if others assumed it only a method to know ideas. Some desired a life that contemplation in contrast to those that still stuck to the idea of placing humanism into political practice. As science, the arts, history, philosophy, and theology all break-up away from each other, for this reason Renaissance humanism came to an end, damaged apart as academic specialisation winner the battle against earning a substantial overview the the person condition.

Despite the breaking up that the humanist movement into its ingredient parts, the necessary idea that human beings were worthy of major study is one that has never unable to do away, that course. If anything, this idea has actually only widened and deepened. The subjects that were taken into consideration important to research in classic sources such as philosophy, history, and literature came to be collectively known as the humanities, and today, the course, they form major faculties in colleges and universities worldwide.