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An eminent Italian humanist, b. of poor and humble parents at Arezzo, the birthplace of Petrarch, in 1369; d. at Florence, 9 March, 1444. He is also called Aretino from the city of his birth. Beginning at first the study of law, he later, under the patronage of Salutato and the influence of the Greek scholar Chrysoloras, turned his attention to the study of the classics. In 1405 he obtained through his friend Poggio the post of Apostolic secretary under Pope Innocent VII. He remained at Rome for several years, continuing as secretary under Popes Gregory XII and Alexander V. In 1410 he was elected Chancellor of the Republic of Florence, but resigned the office after a few months, returning to the papal court as secretary under John XXIII, whom he afterwards accompanied to the Council of Constance. On the deposition of that pope in 1415, Bruni returned to Florence, where he spent the remaining years of his life.
Here he wrote his chief work, a Latin history of Florence, "Historiarium Florentinarum Libri XII" (Strasburg, 1610). In recognition of this great work the State conferred upon him the rights of citizenship and exempted the author and his children from taxation. In 1427 through the favour of the Medici he was again appointed state chancellor, a post which he held until his death. During these seventeen years he performed many valuable services to the State. Bruni contributed greatly to the revival of Greek and Latin learning in Italy in the fifteenth century and was foremost among the scholars of the Christian Renaissance. He, more than any other man, made the treasures of the Hellenic world accessible to the Latin scholar through his literal translations into Latin of the works of Greek authors. Among these may be mentioned his translations of Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, Demosthenes, and Æschines. These were considered models of pure Latinity.
His original works include: "Commentarius Rerum Suo Tempore Gestarum"; "De Romae Origine"; "De Bello Italico adversus Gothos"; and ten volumes of letters, "Epistolae Familiares", which, written in elegant Latin, are very valuable for the literary history of the fifteenth century. He was also the author of biographies in Italian of Dante and Petrarch and wrote in Latin the lives of Cicero and Aristotle. So widespread was the admiration for Bruni's talents that foreigners came from all parts to see him. The great esteem in which he was held by the Florentines was shown by the extraordinary public honors accorded him at his death. His corpse was clad in dark silk, and on his breast was laid a copy of his "History of Florence". In the presence of many foreign ambassadors and the court of Pope Eugenius, Manetti pronounced the funeral oration and placed the crown of laurel upon his head. He was then buried at the expense of the State in the cemetery of Santa Croce, where his resting-place is marked by a monument executed by Rossellino.
Symonds, Renaissance in Italy (New York, 1900), II; The Revival of Learning; Voight, Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Altherthums (Berlin, 1893); the most complete ed. of Bruni's works is that of Mehus (Florence, 1731).