Angelo Ambrogini Biography


Poliziano was born Angelo Ambrogini in the Tuscan town of Montepulciano, the Latin name of which, Mons Politianus, was the source of the appellation by which the poet is known. His father, Benedetto Ambrogini, a capable bourgeois jurist, was murdered for championing the cause of Piero de’ Medici in Montepulciano, whereupon the ten-year-old Poliziano was sent to Florence to seek consolation in his studies. He studied Latin under Cristoforo Landino, who was remarkable for instilling in his pupil the notion that the Tuscan vernacular was in no way inferior to Latin and that, like Latin, it ought to be subject to rules of grammar and rhetoric. Poliziano studied Greek under Giovanni Argyropulos, Andronicus Callistos, Demetrius Chalcondyles, and Marsilio Ficino; and he also studied Hebrew. At sixteen, he began writing epigrams in Greek; at seventeen, he was writing essays on Greek versification; and at eighteen, he published an edition of Catullus. By 1473, Poliziano was in the service of Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence and the chief patron of the arts in Italy. To provide Poliziano with an income, Lorenzo appointed him secular prior of the College of San Giovanni. Poliziano obtained the degree of Doctor of Civil Law, took clerical orders, and was appointed to the canonry of the Cathedral of Florence. In 1475, Lorenzo made him tutor to his sons Piero (who succeeded his father for a brief time) and Giovanni (later Pope Leo X), but his wife, Clarice Orsini, who was pious and conventional, preferred a religious education for her sons rather than the secular one Poliziano offered, and she lobbied for his removal as tutor.

Following the tradition set by Pulci, who wrote a tribute in octaves to Lorenzo’s tournament held in 1469, Poliziano wrote a celebration of the tournament of Lorenzo’s brother Giuliano, held on January 28, 1475, in honor of the latter’s beloved, Simonetta Cattaneo, the wife of Marco Vespucci. The undertaking, however, was ill-starred. First, Simonetta died (April 26, 1476), and she had to be changed from the heroine of book 1 of the...

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Angelo Ambrogini, most commonly known as Poliziano (poh-leets-YAHN-oh) or Politian from his birthplace in Tuscany, was an Italian humanist. A true man of the Renaissance, he displayed a modern spirit in his ability to express his classical learning in understandable, popular forms without forsaking his high standards of scholarship. Many modern classical scholars consider him the initiator of their academic discipline, the study of ancient Greek and Roman culture. Though he studied the philosophy of Plato under Marsilio Ficino and of Aristotle under John Argyropoulos, Poliziano considered himself a literary scholar.{$S[A]Politian;Poliziano}{$S[A]Ambrogini, Angelo;Poliziano}

At the age of nineteen Poliziano attracted the attention of Lorenzo de’ Medici by his poetic Latin translation of a part of Homer’s Greek Iliad. Other translations from the Greek include works by Plato, Epictetus, and Plutarch. Poliziano was asked to tutor Lorenzo’s son Piero. Besides being a canon of the cathedral of Florence, he developed the scientific method of textual criticism in his lectures on Greek and Roman literature at the University of Florence, where he had among his students Johann Reuchlin and William Grocyn. Poliziano’s essays, Miscellanea, discuss a wide variety of issues that arose in his literary and historical studies and give a sense of how he went about his scholarly inquiries.

Poliziano is as well known for his creativity as a poet as for his scholarship. Original verses in Latin include individual Sylvae (Manta, Rusticus, Nutricia, and Ambra), and he composed numerous epigrams in Greek. As one of the best poets of the Italian Renaissance, he revealed the lyrical qualities of Italian in his Rime, a collection of more than one hundred short poems, and in his Stanze, the most famous of his poems in that language, written to celebrate the skill and courage of Giuliano de’ Medici in a tournament. Poliziano’s pastoral play, Orfeo, produced in Mantua in 1480 during a brief period of estrangement from the Medicis, is one of the first plays in Italian. Because it was set to music, it can also be classified as an early Italian opera. Poliziano died at Florence on September 28, 1494.