Leonardo Bruni

Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444) was born in Arezzo but became a Florentine citizen in 1416.  He was deeply involved in politics and held the position of chancellor in the city government.  Bruni was an unflagging scholar and is considered to be one of the first humanists, along with Francesco Petrarca and Angelo Poliziano.  Among his many scholarly accomplishments Bruni is credited with creating a new style of translation that sought to give the reader the overall meaning of the original text rather than a word-for-word translation.1

Bruni's History of the Florentine People has been called "the greatest historical work of the Renaissance."2  The work was begun in 1415 and Bruni worked on it for the rest of his life, supported financially by Florence's city council.  The History is a monument to the greatness of Bruni's adopted city and is considered to be the beginning of a new method of writing civic history.  Instead of the medieval-style chronicle, Bruni wrote his history using Livy as a model for language, format, and style.3  Bruni also relied on the concrete information provided by the city archives as the basis for his writing.

The edition of Historiae Florentini populi displayed below is a translation from the original Latin into Italian completed by another Florentine, Donato Acciauoli.  The following excerpt on the foundation of the city of Florence is from James Hankins' English translation published by Harvard University Press in 2001.

From History of the Florentine People, I.1-3:

The founders of Florence were Romans sent by Lucius Sulla to Faesulae4. They were his veterans who had given outstanding service in the civil war as well as in other wars, and he granted them part of the territory of Faesulae in addition to the town itself and its old inhabitants [...].

That is how Sulla's veterans came to Faesulae and divided the fields among themselves.  Many of them decided, however, that amidst the security of the Roman empire it was unnecessary to inhabit an inaccessible hill town.  So they left the mountain and began to form settlements along the banks of the Arno and the Mugnone in the plain below.  The new city located between these two waterways was at first called Fluentia and its inhabitants Fluentini.  The name lasted for some time, it seems, until the city grew and developed.  Then, perhaps just through the ordinary process by which words are corrupted, or perhaps because of the wonderfully successful flowering of the city, Fluentia became Florentia.

 


Click on images to enlarge.

Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Foreword page 1) Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Foreword page 2, Preface page 1)
(above) Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Foreword page 1)(UIUC X Q.945.5 B63hIa 1492) (above) Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Foreword page 2, Preface page 1) (UIUC X Q.945.5 B63hIa 1492)
Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Preface page 2) Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Book I)
(above) Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Preface page 2) (UIUC X Q.945.5 B63hIa 1492) (above) Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Book I) (UIUC X Q.945.5 B63hIa 1492)
Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Book I)
Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1492 (Book I) (UIUC X Q.945.5 B63hIa 1492)

1.  Robert Black, "Bruni, Leonardo," Oxford Companion to Italian Literature, ed. Peter Hainsworth and David Robey (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

2.  Leonardo Bruni, History of the Florentine People, trans. James Hankins (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 1:ix.

3.  Martin McLaughlin, "Historiography," in Hainsworth and Robey, 2002.

4.  Faesulae:  The modern community of Fiesole, situated in the hills above Florence.

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