Coluccio Salutati

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Coluccio Salutati (February 16, 1331 – May 4, 1406)[1] was an Italian Humanist and man of letters, and one of the most important political and cultural leaders of Renaissance Florence.


Birth and Early Career

Salutati was born in Stignano, near Buggiano (today's province of Pistoia, Tuscany). After studies in Bologna, he began to work as notary in that town, then part of the Republic of Florence. His letters to Florentine scholars earned him the nickname of "Ape of Cicero"[2], referring to his mastership of Latin style. Francesco Bruni took Salutati with him in Rome from 1368 to 1370, as assistant in the Papal secretacy. Having his career boosted by his stay in Rome, he was therefore appointed chancellor of Todi and then of the powerful Lucca.

Chancellor of Florence

In 1375 Coluccio was appointed Chancellor of Florence, the most important position in the bureaucracy of the Florentine Republic. In his position, Salutati was responsible for the official correspondences with other states. His abilities as a statesman were soon tested as Florence was immediately faced with war with the papacy.[3] Salutati was charged with addressing pope Gregory_XI to assure him that Florence was still a loyal member of the Guelf party.[4] Although he failed to prevent war with the papacy, Salutati soon became the most celebrated chancellor in all of Italy and a master of the formal letter. Florence's principle nemesis during his tenure, Giangaleazzo Visconti once remarked that one of Salutati's letters could "cause more damage than a thousand Florentine horsemen."[5] During his life, Florence warred twice against its powerful northern rival, Giangaleazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan. His treatise De tyranno ("On the tyrant", published in 1400), has, most likely, its model in Visconti, although in it Salutati (despite being a republican) remains a supporter of the providential universal monarch already put forward by Dante[6]. Occasionally his letters had unintended consequences. When he wrote the people of Ancona, asking them for military support against the pope, he called to mind the evils Italy had suffered on behalf of the French. Word of his nasty tone got to the King of France, which prompted a switch and most conciliatory letter from Salutati, assuring the King that he meant no harm and that Florence would always be a friend to France.[7] In testament to his popularity as chancellor the city of Florence paid 250 Florins for his funeral in 1406.[8]

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