ABSTRACT

The literary tastes of Cosmo, the talents and admirable qualities of Lucretia, the mother of Lorenzo, and the example and protection of Lorenzo himself, rendered his a golden era for poets and philosophers. It has been already mentioned, that for the sake of spreading abroad a knowledge of the Platonic doctrines, Cosmo had caused the son of his favourite physician to be educated in the study and cultivation of them. Marsiglio Ficino was born at Florence, on the 18th of October, 1433. His first studies were directed by Luca Quarqualio, with whom he read Cicero, and other Latin authors; applying his attention principally to the mention made of Plato, and already admiring and loving his philosophy. His father, being poor, sent him to study at Bologna, to the discontent of Marsiglio; but fortunately, one day, during a casual visit to Florence, his father led him to Cosmo de’ Medici, who, struck with the intelligence exhibited in his countenance, chose him at once, young as he was, to be the future support of / his Platonic academy; and, turning to the father, said, “You were sent us by heaven to cure the body, but your son is certainly destined to cure the mind.”*b He adopted him in his house; and Marsiglio never ceased to testify his gratitude, and to declare that he had been to him a second father. He was given up henceforth to Platonism. At the age of twenty-three he wrote his “Platonic Institutions.”c Plato was his idol; he talked Plato, thought Plato, and became almost mad for Plato, and his deepest and most wonderful mysteries. The celebrated Pico della Mirandola shared his studies and enthusiasm. It was not, however, till after having written his “Institutions,” that, at the advice of Cosmo, he learnt Greek, the better to understand his favourite author. He translated, as the first fruits of this study, the “Hymns of Orpheus” into Latin; he translated, also, the “Treatise on the Origin of the World,” attributed 85to Hermes Trismegistus; and, presenting it to Cosimo, he was rewarded by him by the gift of a podere, or small farm, appertaining to his own villa of Caneggi near Florence, and a house in the city, besides some magnificent manuscripts of Plato and Plotinus.a After this Ficino occupied himself by translating the whole of Plato’s works into Latin, which he completed in five years. He afterwards assumed the clerical profession, and Lorenzo bestowed on him the cure of two churches, and made him canon of the cathedral of Florence, on which he gave up his patrimony to his brothers. He was a disinterested and blameless man: gentle and agreeable in his manners, no violent passions nor desires disturbed the calm of his mind. He loved solitude, and delighted to pass his time in the country, in the society of his philosophic friends. His health was feeble, and he was subject to severe indispositions, which could not induce him to diminish the ardour with which he pursued his studies. Sixtus IV., and Mathew Corvino, king of Hungary, tried to induce him, by magnificent offers, to take up / his abode at their several courts, but he would not quit Florence. Many foreigners, particularly from Germany, visited Italy for the express purpose of seeing him, and studying under him. He died on the first of October, 1499, at the age of sixty-six. In the year 1521, a marble statue was erected in Florence to his memory.