We trace how a small group of scholars, obsessed with classical antiquity, mastered the more ancient form of Latin, thus unlocking the worlds of Roman and Greek politics. Seeing themselves as the peers and equals of the ancient statesmen, the “humanists” called for a new form of learning aimed towards action and ambition. Machiavelli sketched out the path to princely power, Erasmus excavated the original meanings of the Bible, and Michelangelo captured the subtle powers of the human body. The humanists invented the idea of a “modern” era distinct from the “Dark Ages,” and furthered the transformation of Europeans’ grasp of reality — from a realm defined by social relationships to one defined by the senses. Suggested Further reading: Jacob Burckhardt, “The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy”; JGA Pocock, “The Machiavellian Moment”; Pamela Smith, “The Body of the Artisan”.
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