Francis Petrarch, being one of the most influential poets of the Middle Ages, is also known to be the first major figure of the Humanism – the social and intellectual movement, which lies at the basis of the Renaissance (Plumb & Bishop, 2001). The ideals of Humanism pervaded the literature, art, sciences, law, and social life, first in Italy, then in the whole Europe.
Humanity owes Petrarch a lot, since his unique vision of the history and time helped greatly facilitated the development of humanism. He viewed world history as a line, dividing it into the Middle Ages and the present time. However, he considered ancient world to accomplish much more compared to the Middle Ages and the present – in art, science and politics. Petrarch`s aim was to recapture these accomplishments and to start a new rebirth of ancient learning in Europe. Petrarch believed in the huge practical and moral value of studying the ancient literature and history. He encouraged people to learn new things, discover the literature and philosophy of the past, write and speak thoughtfully (Calthrop & Papy, 2006). Petrarch had a passion for collecting ancient manuscripts. As the result new translations and editions of these were created and disseminated. What makes these editions special is the introduction of what is now called “critical” scholarship.
The era of Humanism, initiated by Petrarch was a period of great awakening from the medieval sleep, when humans rediscovered the power of freedom that was lost in the Middle Ages. The study of the poetry, history and rhethorics that was so encouraged by Petrarch provided an immense widening of the horizon for people and enabled them to interact on a completely new and much higher level with history and nature. Humanism was a ray of light that managed to go through the darkness of the Middle Ages and allowed people to expand their landscape of possibilities.
- Calthrop, H. & Papy, J. (2006). Petrarch and his Readers in the Renaissance. Boston: Brill.
- Plumb, J.M. & Bishop, M. (2001). The Italian Renaissance. Petrarch. (pp. 161-175). New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade & Reference Publishers.