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A name given to the great intellectual movement in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries—a period which saw the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. It began in the revolt of men of culture against the intellectual sterility and narrowness of the mediaeval spirit, and especially against scholasticism, whose pedantic and dogmatic narrowness had reached the extreme point of its development. The Renaissance began in Italy, and its first period (1300 to 1375) was marked by a universal revival of interest in classic literature and the classic ideals. It was a great revolt against bigotry and in favor of mental freedom, and its first sign was a passion for the largeness and richness of the pagan world. Traces of this feeling can be seen in Dante (1265-1321), who, although thoroughly mediaeval in his sympathies, chose Vergil as his model, and who, in the vigour and magnificence of his own verse, was a striking contrast to the dull formalists who had before his time written for the men of the Middle Age. Petrarch (1304-1374) is the first true son of the Renaissance. In his poem written in Latin hexameter on the subject of the Second Punic War and entitled Africa, he boldly followed the classic models, as he suggested the ancient Roman grace and freedom in his Italian Rime. He travelled in foreign countries and thus knew a larger world than his predecessors; and he may be said to have rediscovered Greek, which for some six centuries had been lost to the western world. His friend and disciple Boccaccio studied that language, and by his master's advice made a translation of Homer into Latin. Greeks were now encouraged to come from Constantinople to Italy, and in 1396 the learned Manuel Chysoloras began to teach in the chair of Greek founded at the instance of Salutato and Palla degli Strozzi at Florence. A Platonic academy was opened in the same city under the patronage of Cosimo de' Medici. Greek texts were brought from Constantinople, Europe was ransacked for copies of the long unused Latin classics, copyists multiplied them, libraries were founded, and schools for the study of both Greek and Latin in their classic forms were opened at Rome, Mantua, Verona, and many other towns. Pope Nicholas V. earnestly fostered the new movement, and laid the foundation of the great Vatican collection; Cardinal Bessarion greatly aided in the formation of the Library of St. Mark at Venice. Individual scholars went about looking for manuscripts of lost authors, for coins, medals, bronzes— anything that could give a better knowledge of classical antiquity. Among these men, the most famous were Poggio Bracciolini, who brought to light once more Quintilian, Lucretius, part of Cicero, Columella, Vitruvius, Silius Italicus and Asconius; and Cyriacus of Ancona, who sounded the key-note of the new movement in his famous saying, “I go to awake the dead.” See Bracciolini.

The second period of the Renaissance begins about 1375, and is marked by a continued zeal for classical study, and by the development of a broad learning and the new view of the intellectual life which is known as Humanism. By this time the movement had spread to Germany and France and the northern countries generally, where it developed into the wide scholarship and sound learning of men like Erasmus (q.v.), Melanchthon, Reuchlin (q.v.), the Scaligers, Muretus, and Casaubon. The movement had now gone far beyond the mere revival of classical studies, and was felt in every department of life. In philosophy it gradually replaced the purely formal methods of thought that scholasticism had fostered; in science it led to the great discoveries of Galileo and Copernicus; in architecture it brought about the revival of the classic style; in art it developed the new school of painting of which Michael Angelo and Raphael in Italy were the great names, and still another school in the Netherlands and Flanders; in religion its influence is seen in the revolt of Luther; and it indirectly inspired the passion for exploration that led to the discovery of the New World.

See Burckhardt, Civilization of the Period of the Renaissance in Italy (Eng. trans. last ed. 1890); Symonds, The Renaissance in Italy, 7 vols. (1875-86), especially vol. ii.; Pater, The Renaissance (last ed. 1888); Geiger, Renaissance und Humanismus (1881); Müntz, La Renaissance en Italie et en France (1886); Michelet, Histoire de France, vol. ix.; Voigt, Die Wiederbelebung des klassischen Alterthums (2d ed. 1881); and Villari, Machiavelli (Eng. trans. 1890), and Savonarola (Eng. trans. 1889). See also Nisard, Les Gladiateurs de la République de Lettres (Paris, 1854); and the articles Bracciolini; Scaliger; Valla.

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