Latini, Brunetto
(ca. 1220-1294)
   Florentine notary, poet, and political leader. He is best known from his appearance in Canto 15 of Dante's Inferno as one of those punished for sodomy. Despite his condemnation to eternal punishment, Dante treats him with great respect as an admired master. His principal literary work, written in
   French rather than Italian, was his Trésor (full title, Li livres dou trésor), written ca. 1262-1266. In 1260 he had been sent as Florentine ambassador to Castile. Before his return, he learned that the Ghibelline party had seized control of Florence. Hence he stayed in France until the restoration of his own Guelf party to control made return safe. His Trésor was written during that exile. Latini later wrote a handbook of good social conduct called Tesoretto / The Little Treasure, in which he parodied an influential French vernacular poem, the Roman de la rose / Romance of the Rose. Although Latini is conventionally classsified as a medieval rather than a Renaissance author, recent scholarship on the origins of Italian humanism has caused him to be regarded as one of the earliest Florentine authors who might be regarded as a humanist, in the Renaissance sense of the term.
   Latini made a number of translations of classical texts from Latin into the Tuscan dialect that was soon to emerge as the literary vernacular understood throughout Italy. About 1260-1262, during his political exile in Paris, he translated part of one of Cicero's rhetorical works, De inventione, into Tuscan as part of his own work on rhetoric. After returning to Italy in 1267, he translated three Ciceronian orations as models of eloquence for modern orators. In his translations of Cicero, Latini regards rhetoric as more than just style in oral discourse; rather, it is a source of civilization because it is essential to the governance of a republic and hence an important influence on the moral and political virtues necessary for the kind of communal government that had developed in Florence. He made his Ciceronian translations in the hope that familiarity with these texts would help his fellow citizens manage their own republic. He also conceived rhetoric as dealing primarily with oration rather than written discourse. Unlike the expatriate Petrarch but much like Cicero himself, Latini regarded political involvement as the proper duty of a citizen and saw oratory as a tool that enables the statesman to give moral guidance to society. Thus he laid the foundation for the growth of interest in the classics (often in vernacular translations) among members of the Florentine ruling class. His French-language Trésor stated flatly that the communal (that is, republican) form of government is "by far the best."

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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