#21 – Enter The Lombards
August 4, 2018
#23 – The Father Of The Renaissance (part two)
August 10, 2018

#22 – The Father Of The Renaissance (part one)

  • I want to pick up our story in the year 1302
  • To talk about a man called Pietro di Parenzo di Garzo.
  • Well actually I want to talk about his SON.
  • But we’ll get there.
  • And to get there, we’re going to need to duck in and out of the 800 years we’ve skipped since our last episodes.
  • So hang in there.
  • Pietro di Parenzo di Garzo was a notary in FLORENCE.
  • A contract lawyer.
  • At some point in 1302, he was falsely charged with faking some documents.
  • He belonged to the political party of the White Guelphs along with the famous poet Dante, who was its most illustrious member.
  • The Guelphs and Ghibellines were Italian factions supporting the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor.
  • The division goes back to the 12th century and Frederick Barbarossa.
  • Barbarossa was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152.
  • He was crowned King of Italy on 24 April1155 in Pavia and Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV on 18 June 1155 in Rome.
  • After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 480, when Julius Nepos was was deposed in 475 by Orestes, the title of Emperor lay dormant until Charlemagne revived it
  • He was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III in 800, and his successors maintained the title until the death of Berengar I of Italy in 924.
  • No pope appointed an emperor again until the coronation of the German king Otto the Great in 962.
  • Who, despite being a German, was the Great-great-great-great grandson of Charlemagne.
  • The actual Holy Roman Empire is usually considered to have begun with Otto
  • He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 962 by Pope John XII in Rome after he defeated the pagan Magyars and was declared the saviour of Christendom.
  • Why was the Pope now crowning Emperors?
  • The Holy Roman Emperor was widely perceived to rule by divine right by Roman Catholic rulers in Europe.
  • It also goes back to an agreement between the Frankish kings to defend the Popes from their enemies in return for the continued support of the Pope.
  • The leader of the Catholics could – and often did – cause huge problems for European royalty.
  • Charlemagne’s father, Pepin the Short, defended the papacy against the Lombards and issued the Donation of Pepin, which granted the land around Rome to the pope as a fief.
  • In 754, Pope Stephen II crossed the Alps to anoint Pepin king, which enabled the Carolingian family to supplant the old Merovingian royal line.
  • In return for Stephen’s support, Pepin gave the Pope the lands in Italy which the Lombards had taken from the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire
  • Pope Stephen II conferred on Pepin the dignity of Patricius Romanus – the Father of the Romans.
  • And then 46 years later, in 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne the Roman Emperor.
  • The first time the title had been used in 300 years.
  • The precise term “Holy Roman Empire” was not used until the 13th century.
  • So anyway.
  • Back to Barbarossa.
  • Before his imperial election, Frederick was the Duke of Swabia.
  • He had a castle called Waiblingen (German pronunciation: [ˈvaɪblɪŋən]).
  • His supported would cry that out in battle.
  • In Italy, that word became Ghibellino in Italian.
  • His opponents were from the House of Welf, the family of the dukes of Bavaria.
  • Their supporters would shout out WELF!
  • And in Italy, that became Guelph.
  • When Barbarossa was trying to take Italy, his supporters were the Ghibellines.
  • They tended to be rural nobility whose wealth came from agriculture.
  • His enemies were the Guelphs.
  • They supported the Pope’s control over the various Italian cities,
  • They were typically the urban faction whose wealth came from commerce.
  • Which gets us back to Pietro di Parenzo di Garzo.
  • He was a merchant who also worked for the State as a notary.
  • Notaries were professional writers of contracts, wills, and a wide variety of legal documents.
  • He was basically a lawyer and came from generations of notable lawyers – notable notaries – before him.
  • He also belonged to a political faction known as the White Guelphs.
  • So he was accused by another faction, the Black Guelphs, of the charge of having falsified a legal document.
  • At the close of the 13th century the Ghibellines had been pretty thoroughly eradicated, and the Guelphs began fighting each other over whether or not they should maintain any allegiance to the Pope.
  • Black Guelphs were those who still thought of themselves as the “church party” opposed to the “imperial party”, while White Guelphs felt that, with the Emperor and the Ghibellines falling into irrelevance, there was no further need for the Pope as a leader and their loyalty should be to each other and their cities.
  • All this is important to know for when we get to the Medicis and Florence later on in the series.
  • The White Guelphs were promoting an early form of secular nationalism.
  • Anyway, Pietro di Parenzo di Garzo refused to stand for trial.
  • He believed the whole thing was a stitch up.
  • He left town and was convicted in absence, and then was given the choice of paying a heavy fine or having his right hand cut off.
  • As he still refused to appear before the court, he was banished from Florence, and suffered the confiscation of his property.
  • Taking his young wife with him, he fled to Arezzo, a town about 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Florence.
  • It was there that Pietro’s son was born in 1304.
  • Now Pietro had a nickname – Ser Petracco.
  • Ser = Mister.
  • His son was Francesco Petrarca.
  • We know him as Petrarch, the great Florentine poet who is often called the father of humanism and the father of the Renaissance.
  • He’s also the person credited with first referring to the Middle Ages as the “dark ages”.
  • Writing of those who had come before him, he said that “amidst the errors there shone forth men of genius, no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom”.
  • He once wrote ‘I am a citizen of no place, everywhere I am a stranger,” for which he has been called “the first modern man.”
  • So who was he and why is he important to our story?
  • Let’s find out.
  • Not long after Petrarch was born in Arezzo, his father got permission for his wife and son to move closer to Florence, to a small town called Incisa in Val d’Arno, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of Florence, where they owned a house with other members of the family.
  • Ser Petracco had to find employment elsewhere.
  • Around 1311 Ser Petracco got employment in Avignon where the papal household had moved to from Rome.
  • Remember how I said the Emperors used to fight with the Popes?
  • Well in 1303 Pope Boniface VIII was arrested by Philip IV of France over taxation.
  • Philip wanted to tax the church in France and Boniface told him to get fucked and excommunicated him.
  • He issued a papal bull saying “Popes are the boss of the kings.”
  • So Philip had him arrested and tortured.
  • He was released but died weeks later.
  • His successor, Pope Benedict XI, only lasted 8 months before he also died, probably poisoned – and Philip forced a deadlocked conclave to elect the French Clement V as Pope in 1305.
  • Clement refused to move to Rome, and in 1309, he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years.
  • Clement is also remembered for suppressing the order of the Knights Templar and allowing the execution of many of its members.
  • In 1316 Petracco sent Petrarch and his brother Gherardo to study law at the University of Montpellier.
  • It was the family business.
  • Petrarch never liked law and thought it was a waste of his time.
  • He wanted to be a poet.
  • By his own account, he’d been reading Cicero since he was quite young, thanks to his father.
  • “At that time I could not understand what I read, but the sweetness of the language and majesty of the cadences enchanted me, so that whatever else I read sounded harsh in my ears and quite discordant.”
  • But his father had fallen on hard time and was pushing Petrarch to give up on Cicero and dedicate himself to making a career as a lawyer.
  • One day he found Petrarch hidden stash of Cicero and threw it all into the fire.
  • Wait? People in Petrarch’s time still read Cicero?
  • They had BITS of Cicero.
  • And the reason we have so much is much the same as the reason we have so much Virgil or Ovid: because during Rome’s peak, here WAS so much of it.
  • Cicero’s latin was so famous during his lifetime, and in the years afterwards, that everyone who was anyone wanted their own copy of his collected works, to enjoy and for their children to study.
  • They became textbooks on how to write in Latin, in addition to being an invaluable first-hand (albeit biased) source on his times.
  • Finally, it’s also worth noting that Cicero did write a LOT of stuff.
  • Unlike Virgil, Cicero left behind reams and reams of writing: more than 20 writings in his philosophia, more than 30 writings in his oratoria, and literally hundreds of letters to various people, which accounts for the sheer volume of his writings.
  • To add to this, it didn’t hurt that his best friend Atticus (who many of the letters were addressed to) was more or less a publisher in Greece.
  • He had a large number of slaves whose sole job was making more copies of Cicero’s work.
  • As things are, seventy-five percent of what survives in Latin from Cicero’s lifetime was written by Cicero himself.
  • Anyway back to the fire.
  • Petrarch says he screamed so loudly when his father threw his books into the fire, that his father reached in and pulled two out that had been barely scorched.
  • Virgil’s Aeneid and a copy of Cicero’s “On Rhetoric”.
  • He told his son to read the first when he had a spare hour, and to read the second to help him in his career as a lawyer.
  • Which is what Petrarch studied for the next seven years, although he considered it a waste of time and energy.
  • When he was about 22, his father died.
  • His mother died a few weeks later.
  • By this time, Ser Petracco had managed to build up his personal fortune again, but none of it made it to his two sons.
  • It was apparently stolen by the executors of his will.
  • Now I bet Petrarch wished he’d paid more attention in law school!
  • He says that all he got from his father’s estate was a single book by Cicero.
  • “A volume of Cicero so exquisite that you could hardly find its equal, which my father used to cherish as his darling treasure, and which escaped the hands of his executors not because they wished to save it for me, but because they were busy plundering what they considered the more valuable portions of my inheritance.”
  • Unfortunately, a few years later, he loaned this book, and another book by Cicero, De Gloria, ON GLORY, which he had himself borrowed from someone else, to one of his old teachers, who said he wanted to write a commentary on them.
  • But the teacher secretly sold them both off because he was hard up for cash.
  • And Petrarch never saw them again.
  • And that copy of De Gloria? It was the last one in existence. ANYWHERE. IT’S GONE.
  • ON GLORY, it was written in 44 BCE, the year before his murder.

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