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Francesco Petrarch, who lived in the 1300s, is considered one of the founders of Humanism. Humanists synthesized, or brought together, Christian values and the moral values of the Greco-Roman classical period.

Greco-Roman literature and art were in the process of being rediscovered during Petrarch's life, and because of that, the era in which he lives is called the Renaissance, meaning the "rebirth" (of Classical studies). Petrarch himself is credited with the rediscovery of the letters of the Roman writer Cicero to Atticus, Brutus, and Quinus.

Petrarch was also influential in poetry. He wrote a series of sonnets to an idealized beloved named Laura. (The possible model for Laura died in the Black Death in 1348.) He improved the sonnet form, creating what is called the Petrarchan sonnet. Such a sonnet consists of an octave, or group of eight lines, following an abbaabba scheme and of a six-line stanza called a sestet.

Since the Black Death, one of the most traumatic events in European history, which probably killed close to half of all Italians, happened in his lifetime, Petrarch lived through a tumultuous period of change. Nevertheless, he tended to devote himself to scholarly studies and the advancement of knowledge, especially that of the ancient world.

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