- Poliziano, Angelo
- (born Angelo Ambrogini, 1454-1494)Ital-ian humanist and poet, one of the most learned philologists and textual critics of the 15th century. By 1469 he had moved to Florence to attend the university and soon came under the protection of Lorenzo de'Medici. He attended lectures by major figures of Florentine Renais-sance culture, including Johannes Argyropoulos, Cristoforo Landino, and Marsilio Ficino, and acquired an outstanding command of Greek, a much-admired Latin style, and a strong commitment to Neoplatonic philosophy. His translation of a portion of Homer's Iliad into Latin (1473), dedicated to Lorenzo, led the latter to invite him to move into the Medici family palace, where he had access to the family's rich manuscript library. Poliziano became private secretary to Lorenzo in 1475 and tutor to his son Piero. His vernacular poem celebrating the victory of Lorenzo's brother Giuliano in a joust in 1475 marks a deci-sive turn in Italian poetry. He was ordained to the priesthood, and Lorenzo appointed him to two lucrative ecclesiastical benefices. After the bloody Pazzi Conspiracy of 1478, which killed Giuliano de' Medici and wounded Lorenzo, Poliziano wrote a Latin account of the event, modelled on Sallust's history of the Catilinian conspiracy. While visiting Mantua at Carnival in 1480 he produced another pathbreaking work of Italian poetry, the dramatic poem Orfeo, the first Italian ver-nacular poem written for the stage. During this trip he also became a close friend of the Venetian humanist Ermolao Barbaro. In November 1480 Poliziano returned to Florence as professor of rhetoric and poetics. He lectured on both poetry and prose authors, including Quintilian, Statius, Ovid, and the pseudo-Ciceronian (but genuinely classical) Rhetorica ad Herennium. His influential transla-tions from Greek included the Stoic philosopher Epictetus and the historian Herodian. In 1489 he published a work that is still regarded as a landmark in the history of classical philology and textual criti-cism, Miscellaneorum centuria prima, a collection of essays on an-cient texts and authors. This work introduced new standards of doc-umentation and citation for identifying the manuscript sources of classical editions. It established Poliziano's central role in the transi-tion from the enthusiastic but unsystematic humanistic editing prac-ticed by early Renaissance humanists to the methods of textual criti-cism accepted by late Renaissance and modern classical philologists.Lorenzo de'Medici's premature death in 1492 endangered this quiet and productive scholarly life. Poliziano spent his final years working on a second set of Miscellanea (not published in his life-time) and responding to attacks on his first Miscellanea that were partly motivated by hostility to his Medici patrons. He died in late September of 1494, within a few weeks of the deaths of Pico della Mirándola and other luminaries of the Medicean intellectual circle. In his last months, like his friend Pico, he fell under the spell of the Dominican preacher Girolamo Savonarola.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.