Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Coluccio di Pierio di Salutati

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 13
Coluccio di Pierio di Salutati

by Paul Lejay


Italian Humanist b. in Tuscany, 1331; d. 4 May, 1406. He studied at Bologna and went to Rome to begin his career as pontifical secretary to Urban IV. He had a passion for ancient letters and from 1368 was in correspondence with Petrarch. In 1375 he was summoned to Florence to be chancellor or Latin secretary for the republic, which office he held until his death. He immediately became a frequent attendant of the learned meetings which were held at the Convent of San Spirito and gathered about Luigi de' Marsiglii, theologian and Humanist (d. 1394), and at the Villa Paradiso of the Alberti. Salutati's life was filled chiefly by political and administrative matters; thus he was led to write several works against the Duke of Milan. Among his works are short treatises, "De fato et fortuna", "De religione et fuga saeculi"; the only one printed is "De nobilitate legum et medicinae" (Venice, 1542); but the most interesting portion of his works is his correspondence, a learned edition of which was published by Novati; "Epistolario" (Rome, 1891). Salutati's manuscripts are rather rare in libraries because taste changed suddenly with regard to Latin style. Æneas Sylvius (Pius II) said that he may have had merit in his time, but that modern writers had obscured him. As early as 1401 Leonardo Bruni of Arezzo exactly depicted the Florentine circle in his dialogue and represented Salutati as an old man of another generation.

Salutati's activity was exercised under two especially fruitful forms: he received and guided young men very well; Poggio was treated by him as his son; he protected Bruni, and welcomed with enthusiasm Manuel Chrysoloras, whose arrival at Florence in 1396 was the great event of the Renaissance at the end of the fourteenth century. He used his influence to secure Chrysoloras a pension of 100 florins a year, and, old as he was, he took up a course in Greek. On the other hand he devoted himself to seeking for Latin MSS; in 1375 he secured from Verona a copy of Catullus which is still one of the standard texts of the poet (now in Paris, Bib. Nat., Latin 14137). He was also in possession of Petrarch's Propertius, and the best and most ancient MS. of Tibullus (Ambrosianus) was also probably in his library. Petrarch was only acquainted with a collection of Cicero's letters, comprising the letters to Atticus and Quintus and the correspondence between Brutus and Cicero. While endeavoring to recover Petrarch's copy Salutati stumbled upon another collection in 1389, that known as the "Familiar Letters"; in 1392 he was able to have Petrarch's MS. copied at Milan, and this copy is now the chief authority for the text. He was the first to possess Cato's treatise on agriculture, the elegies of Maximianus, the "Aratea" of Germanicus, and the commentary of the grammarian, Pompeius, on Donatus. Provided with these means of study he was able to take up questions of literary history. He proved that the treatise "De differentiis" was not Cicero's. He dealt with the problem of the Octavia, but here he shot wide of the mark. To him we owe the distinction, now long admitted to be incorrect, between Seneca the tragedian and Seneca the philosopher.

SABBADINI, Le scoperte dei codici latini e greci ne secoli XIVe XVe (Florence, 1905), 34; VOIGT, Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Altertums, I (Berlin, 1893), 190; SANDYS, A History of Classical Scholarship,II (Cambridge, 1908), 17.

PAUL LEJAY