Marsilio Ficino

Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino also known as Marsillio Ficino

Bust of Marsilio Ficino by Andrea Ferrucci in Florence's Cathedral.
Full name Marsilio Ficino also known as Marsillio Ficino
Born October 19, 1433
Figline Valdarno
Died October 1, 1499(1499-10-01) (aged 65)
Era Renaissance philosophy
Region Western Philosophers
School Neoplatonism

Marsilio Ficino (Latin name: Marsilius Ficinus) (October 19, 1433 – October 1, 1499) was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance, an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism who was in touch with every major academic thinker and writer of his day, and the first translator of Plato's complete extant works into Latin. His Florentine Academy, an attempt to revive Plato's school, had enormous influence on the direction and tenor of the Italian Renaissance and the development of European philosophy.


Early life

Ficino was born at Figline Valdarno. His father was a physician under the patronage of Cosimo de' Medici, who took the young man into his household and became the lifelong patron of Marsilio, who was made tutor to his grandson, Lorenzo de' Medici. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the Italian humanist philosopher and scholar was another of his students.

During the sessions at Florence of the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438-1445, during the failed attempts to heal the schism of the Orthodox and Catholic churches, Cosimo de' Medici and his intellectual circle had made acquaintance with the Neoplatonic philosopher George Gemistos Plethon, whose discourses upon Plato and the Alexandrian mystics so fascinated the learned society of Florence that they named him the second Plato. In 1459 John Argyropoulos was lecturing on Greek language and literature at Florence, and Marsilio became his pupil.

When Cosimo decided to refound Plato's Academy at Florence, his choice to head it was Marsilio, who made the classic translation of Plato from Greek to Latin (published in 1484), as well as a translation of a collection of Hellenistic Greek documents found by Leonardo da Pistoia (monk) called Helmetica later called the Hermetic Corpus - particularly the "Corpus Hermeticum" of Hermes Trismegistos,[1] and the writings of many of the Neoplatonists, for example Porphyry, Iamblichus, Plotinus, et al. Ficino tried to synthesize Christianity and Platonism.

He was a vegetarian.[2] Ficino became a priest in 1473.[3]


Marsilio Ficino's main original work was his treatise on the immortality of the soul (Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae). In the rush of enthusiasm for every rediscovery from Antiquity, Marsilio exhibited a great interest in the arts of astrology, which landed him in trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1489 he was accused of magic before Pope Innocent VIII and needed strong defense to preserve him from the condemnation of heresy.

Domenico Ghirlandaio (1486–1490). Zachariah in the Temple [detail]: Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino, Angelo Poliziano and Demetrios Chalkondyles (detail). Fresco. Santa Maria Novella, Tornabuoni Cappella, Florence, Italy.

Marsilio Ficino, writing in 1492, proclaimed, "This century, like a golden age, has restored to light the liberal arts, which were almost extinct: grammar, poetry, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, music... this century appears to have perfected astrology."

His letters, extending over the years 1474 – 1494, survive and have been published. He also wrote De amore and the influential De vita libri tres (Three books on life.) De vita, published in 1489, provides a great deal of curious contemporary medical and astrological advice for maintaining health and vigor, as well as espousing the Neoplatonist view of the world's ensoulment and its integration with the human soul. "[...] There will be some men or other, superstitious and blind, who see life plain in even the lowest animals and the meanest plants, but do not see life in the heavens or the world [...] Now if those little men grant life to the smallest particles of the world, what folly! what envy! neither to know that the Whole, in which 'we live and move and have our being,' is itself alive, nor to wish this to be so."[4] One metaphor for this integrated "aliveness" is Ficino's astrology.

In the Book of Life, Marsilio details the interlinks between behavior and consequence. It talks about a list of things that hold sway over a man's destiny.

Ficino introduced the term and concept of "platonic love" in the West. It first appeared in a letter to Alamanno Donati in 1476, but was later fully developed all along his work, mainly his famous De amore. He also practiced this love metaphysic with Giovanni Cavalcanti whom he made the principal character in his commentary on the Convivio, and to whom he wrote ardent love letters in Latin which were published in his Epistulae in 1492. Apart from these letters there are numerous indications that suggest Ficino's erotic impulses were directed exclusively towards men. His opinion of women was less favorable: "Women should be used like chamber pots: hidden away once a man has pissed in them." [5]After his death his biographers had a difficult task trying to refute those who spoke of his homosexual tendencies. However his sincere and deep faith, and membership of the clergy, put him outside the reach of gossip and while praising love for the same-sex, he condemned sodomy in the Convivium.[6][7]


Ficino died at Careggi. His memory has been honored with a bust sculpted by Andrea Ferrucci in 1521, and located in the south side of the nave in the cathedral of Florence Santa Maria del Fiore.


  • Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae (Platonic Theology). Harvard University Press, Latin with English translation.
  • The Letters of Marsilio Ficino. Shepheard-Walwyn Publishers. English translation with extensive notes; the Language Department of the School of Economic Science.
  • Icastes. Marsilio Ficino's Interpretation of Plato's Sophist, edited and translated by Michael J. B. Allen, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
  • De vita libri tres (Three Books on Life, 1489) translated by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clarke, Tempe, Arizona: The Renaissance Society of America, 2002. with notes, commentaries and Latin text on facing pages. ISBN 0-86698-041-5
  • De religione Christiana et fidei pietate (1475–6), dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici.
  • In Epistolas Pauli commentaria, Marsilii Ficini Epistolae (Venice, 1491; Florence, 1497).
  • Meditations on the Soul: Selected letters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by the Language Department of the School of Economic Science, London. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1996. ISBN 0-89281-658-9. Note for instance, letter 31: A man is not rightly formed who does not delight in harmony, pp. 5–60; letter 9: One can have patience without religion, pp. 16–18; Medicine heals the body, music the spirit, theology the soul, pp. 63–64; letter 77: The good will rule over the stars, p. 166.
  • Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love, tr. by Sears Jayne. Spring Publications, 2nd edition, 2000. ISBN 0-88214-601-7
  • Collected works: Opera (Florence,1491, Venice, 1516, Basel, 1561).

See also


  1. ^ Yates, Frances A. (1964) Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. University of Chicago Press 1991 edition: ISBN 0-226-95007-7
  2. ^ Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier, Pythagoras and Renaissance Europe: Finding Heaven, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  3. ^ Oskar, Kristeller Paul. Studies in Renaissance thought and letters. IV. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e letteratura, 1996: 565.
  4. ^ Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, translated by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark, Tempe AZ: The Renaissance Society of America, 2002. From the Apologia, p. 399. (The internal quote is from Acts 17:28.)
  5. ^ Paul Oskar Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinum, 2 vols., reprinted, Florence, 1973, 2:188, cited by Dale Kent,"Women in Renaissance Florence," Virtue and Beauty, National Gallery of Art, 2001, 27.
  6. ^ Giovanni dell'Orto, Socratic love as a disguise for same sex love in the Italian Renaissance, Journal of Homosexuality, 16
  7. ^ G. Hekma (ed), The pursuit of sodomy: male homosexuality in the renaissance and enlightenment, Haworth Press, 1989

Further reading

  • Allen, Michael J. B., Nuptial Arithmetic: Marsilio Ficino's Commentary on the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato's Republic. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. ISBN 0-520-08143-9
  • Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, John Herman Randall, Jr., The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1948.) Marsilio Ficino, Five Questions Concerning the Mind, pp. 193–214.
  • Anthony Gottlieb, The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance (Penguin, London, 2001) ISBN 0-14-025274-6
  • Paul Oskar Kristeller, Eight Philosophers of the Italian Renaissance. Stanford University Press (Stanford California, 1964) Chapter 3, "Ficino," pp. 37–53.
  • Raffini, Christine, "Marsilio Ficino, Pietro Bembo, Baldassare Castiglione: Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Political Approaches in Renaissance Platonism", Renaissance and Baroque Studies and Texts, v.21, Peter Lang Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-8204-3023-4
  • Robb, Nesca A., Neoplatonism of the Italian Renaissance, New York: Octagon Books, Inc., 1968.
  • Field, Arthur, The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence, New Jersey: Princeton, 1988.
  • Allen, Michael J.B., and Valery Rees, with Martin Davies, eds. Marsilio Ficino : His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy.Leiden : E.J.Brill, 2002. A wide range of new essays.ISBN 9004118551

External links

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  • Marsilio Ficino —     Marsilio Ficino     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Marsilio Ficino     A philosopher, philologist, physician, b. at Florence, 19 Oct., 1433; d. at Correggio, 1 Oct, 1499. Son of the physician of Cosmo de Medici, he served the Medicis for three… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Marsilio Ficino — (1433 1499). Filósofo renacentista florentino, líder de la Academia Neoplatónica de Florencia, protegido de Cosme de Medici y de sus sucesores, incluyendo Lorenzo de Medici (llamado el Magnífico ) fue el artífice del renacimiento del… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Marsilio Ficino — Büste Ficinos von Andrea di Piero Ferrucci im Dom von Florenz, 1521 Marsilio Ficino (* 19. Oktober 1433 in Figline Valdarno; † 1. Oktober 1499 in Careggi bei Florenz) war ein Humanist und Philosoph. Er gehört zu den bekanntesten Persönlichkeiten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Marsilio Ficino — Retrato de Marsilio Ficino, grabado de Edme de Boulonois. Marsilio Ficino (19 de octubre de 1433, en Figline Valdarno (cerca de Florencia) 1 de octubre de 1499, en Careggi (alrededores de Florencia) fue el artífice del renacimiento del… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Ficino — Büste Ficinos von Andrea di Piero Ferrucci im Dom von Florenz, 1521 Marsilio Ficino (* 19. Oktober 1433 in Figline Valdarno; † 1. Oktober 1499 in Careggi bei Florenz) war ein Humanist und Philosoph. Er gehört zu den bekannte …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ficino, Marsilio — (1433– 99)    Philosopher and Mystic.    Ficino was born near Florence. Under the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici, he studied Greek philosophy and by 1477 he had translated all the dialogues of Plato. He was the founder of the Platonic Academy in… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Ficino, Marsilio — (1433 1499)    Priest, doctor, musician, translator of ancient texts, writer, philosopher, and key figure of the Renaissance. Marsilio Ficino enjoyed the patronage of the Medici rulers of Florence. While in the service of Cosimo de Medici, Ficino …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • Ficino — Marsile Ficin Marsile Ficin Philosophe italien Renaissance …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ficino, Marsilio — • Entry on this Renaissance Platonist, by M. Schumacher. Details his life and explores his relation to the classical thinkers Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Ficino —   [fi tʃiːno], Marsilio, italienischer Arzt, Humanist und Philosoph, * Florenz, 19. 10. 1433, ✝ Careggi (heute zu Florenz) 1. 10. 1499; 1473 zum Priester geweiht. Gefördert von Cosimo de Medici, wurde er zum Mittelpunkt des Florentiner… …   Universal-Lexikon

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