Bust of Marsilio Ficino by Andrea Ferrucci in Florence's Cathedral
|Born||19 October 1433
|Died||1 October 1499
|Part of a series on|
Marsilio Ficino (Italian: [marˈsiljo fiˈtʃino]; Latin name: Marsilius Ficinus; 19 October 1433 – 1 October 1499) was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance, an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism who was in touch with every major academic thinker and writer of his day, and the first translator of Plato's complete extant works into Latin. His Florentine Academy, an attempt to revive Plato's school, had enormous influence on the direction and tenor of the Italian Renaissance and the development of European philosophy.
Ficino was born at Figline Valdarno. His father was a physician under the patronage of Cosimo de' Medici, who took the young man into his household and became the lifelong patron of Marsilio, who was made tutor to his grandson, Lorenzo de' Medici. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the Italian humanist philosopher and scholar was another of his students.
During the sessions at Florence of the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438–1445, during the failed attempts to heal the schism of the Orthodox and Catholic churches, Cosimo de' Medici and his intellectual circle had made acquaintance with the Neoplatonic philosopher George Gemistos Plethon, whose discourses upon Plato and the Alexandrian mystics so fascinated the learned society of Florence that they named him the second Plato. In 1459 John Argyropoulos was lecturing on Greek language and literature at Florence, and Ficino became his pupil.
When Cosimo decided to refound Plato's Academy at Florence he chose Ficino as its head, who made the classic translation of Plato from Greek to Latin (published in 1484), as well as a translation of a collection of Hellenistic Greek documents found by Leonardo da Pistoia called Hermetica later called the Hermetic Corpus – particularly the "Corpus Hermeticum" of Hermes Trismegistos, and the writings of many of the Neoplatonists, for example Porphyry, Iamblichus, Plotinus, et al. Ficino tried to synthesize Christianity and Platonism.
Among his many students was Francesco Cattani da Diacceto, who was considered by Ficino to be his successor as the head of the Florentine Platonic Academy. Diacceto's student, Giovanni di Bardo Corsi, produced a short biography of Ficino in 1506.
Marsilio Ficino's main original work was his treatise on the immortality of the soul (Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae). In the rush of enthusiasm for every rediscovery from Antiquity, Marsilio exhibited a great interest in the arts of astrology, which landed him in trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1489 he was accused of magic before Pope Innocent VIII and needed strong defense to preserve him from the condemnation of heresy.
Writing in 1492 Ficino proclaimed: "This century, like a golden age, has restored to light the liberal arts, which were almost extinct: grammar, poetry, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, music ... this century appears to have perfected astrology."
His letters, extending over the years 1474–1494, survive and have been published. He also wrote De amore (1484) and the influential De vita libri tres (Three books on life.) De vita, published in 1489, provides a great deal of curious contemporary medical and astrological advice for maintaining health and vigor, as well as espousing the Neoplatonist view of the world's ensoulment and its integration with the human soul:
There will be some men or other, superstitious and blind, who see life plain in even the lowest animals and the meanest plants, but do not see life in the heavens or the world ... Now if those little men grant life to the smallest particles of the world, what folly! what envy! neither to know that the Whole, in which 'we live and move and have our being,' is itself alive, nor to wish this to be so.
One metaphor for this integrated "aliveness" is Ficino's astrology.
In the Book of Life, Marsilio details the interlinks between behavior and consequence. It talks about a list of things that hold sway over a man's destiny.
Ficino introduced the term and concept of "platonic love" in the West. It first appeared in a letter to Alamanno Donati in 1476, but was later fully developed all along his work, mainly his famous De amore. He also practiced this love metaphysic with Giovanni Cavalcanti, whom he made the principal character in his commentary on the Convivio, and to whom he wrote ardent love letters in Latin that were published in his Epistulae in 1492; there are also numerous other indications to suggest that Ficino's erotic impulses were directed exclusively towards men. After his death his biographers had a difficult task trying to refute those who spoke of his homosexual tendencies. But his sincere and deep faith, and membership of the clergy, put him beyond the reach of gossip, and while praising love for the same sex, he also condemned sodomy in the Convivium.
- Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae (Platonic Theology). Harvard University Press, Latin with English translation.
- The Letters of Marsilio Ficino. Shepheard-Walwyn Publishers. English translation with extensive notes; the Language Department of the School of Economic Science.
- Commentaries on Plato. I Tatti Renaissance Library. Bilingual, annotated English/Latin editions of Ficino's commentaries on the works of Plato.
- Icastes. Marsilio Ficino's Interpretation of Plato's Sophist, edited and translated by Michael J. B. Allen, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
- De vita libri tres (Three Books on Life, 1489) translated by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clarke, Tempe, Arizona: The Renaissance Society of America, 2002. with notes, commentaries and Latin text on facing pages. ISBN 0-86698-041-5
- De religione Christiana et fidei pietate (1475–6), dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici.
- In Epistolas Pauli commentaria, Marsilii Ficini Epistolae (Venice, 1491; Florence, 1497).
- Meditations on the Soul: Selected letters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by the Language Department of the School of Economic Science, London. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1996. ISBN 0-89281-658-9. Note for instance, letter 31: A man is not rightly formed who does not delight in harmony, pp. 5–60; letter 9: One can have patience without religion, pp. 16–18; Medicine heals the body, music the spirit, theology the soul, pp. 63–64; letter 77: The good will rule over the stars, p. 166.
- Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love, tr. by Sears Jayne. Spring Publications, 2nd edition, 2000. ISBN 0-88214-601-7
- Collected works: Opera (Florence,1491, Venice, 1516, Basel, 1561).
See also 
- Yates, Frances A. (1964) Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. University of Chicago Press 1991 edition: ISBN 0-226-95007-7
- Marsilio Ficino, entry by Christopher Celenza in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Annotated English translation of Corsi's biography of Ficino
- Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier, Pythagoras and Renaissance Europe: Finding Heaven, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
- Oskar, Kristeller Paul. Studies in Renaissance thought and letters. IV. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e letteratura, 1996: 565.
- Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, translated by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark, Tempe AZ: The Renaissance Society of America, 2002. From the Apologia, p. 399. (The internal quote is from Acts 17:28.)
- Giovanni Dall'Orto, Socratic love as a disguise for same sex love in the Italian Renaissance, Journal of Homosexuality, 16
- G. Hekma (ed), The pursuit of sodomy: male homosexuality in the renaissance and enlightenment, Haworth Press, 1989
Further reading 
- Allen, Michael J. B., Nuptial Arithmetic: Marsilio Ficino's Commentary on the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato's Republic. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. ISBN 0-520-08143-9
- Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, John Herman Randall, Jr., The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1948.) Marsilio Ficino, Five Questions Concerning the Mind, pp. 193–214.
- Anthony Gottlieb, The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance (Penguin, London, 2001) ISBN 0-14-025274-6
- James Heiser, "Prisci Theologi and the Hermetic Reformation in the Fifteenth Century" (Repristination Press, Malone, Texas, 2011) ISBN 978-1-4610-9382-4
- Paul Oskar Kristeller, Eight Philosophers of the Italian Renaissance. Stanford University Press (Stanford California, 1964) Chapter 3, "Ficino," pp. 37–53.
- Raffini, Christine, "Marsilio Ficino, Pietro Bembo, Baldassare Castiglione: Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Political Approaches in Renaissance Platonism", Renaissance and Baroque Studies and Texts, v.21, Peter Lang Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-8204-3023-4
- Robb, Nesca A., Neoplatonism of the Italian Renaissance, New York: Octagon Books, Inc., 1968.
- Field, Arthur, The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence, New Jersey: Princeton, 1988.
- Allen, Michael J.B., and Valery Rees, with Martin Davies, eds. Marsilio Ficino : His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy.Leiden : E.J.Brill, 2002. A wide range of new essays.ISBN 9004118551
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Marsilio Ficino|
- Platonis Opera Omnia (Latin)
- Marsilio Ficino entry by Christopher S. Celenza in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Marsilio Ficino entry by James G. Snyder in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- http://www.renaissanceastrology.com/ficino.html Short Biography of Ficino
- Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911: Ficino
- Catholic Encyclopedia entry
- The Influence of Marsilio Ficino
- www.ficino.it Website of the International Ficino Society
- Online Galleries, History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries High resolution images of works by and/or portraits of Marsilio Ficino in .jpg and .tiff format.